Monday, July 27, 2009

some things

thanks are due to olivia c who reminded us of the responsibilities that we have as restaurateurs, that is to provide what the customer wants. in the case of a risotto, unless we are advised otherwise, this menas something that is rich and appealing as a good risotto should be. as you may be aware we ofetn sacrifice somethings in order to make the food as general as possible, however usually we make this decision on the preparation of a whole dish, not simply whether we add butter and cheese at the end of a risotto. henceforth we shall be finishing risotti (i wonder if that is correct) with aforementioned butter and cheese.

the holidays continue to be a bane for us. this weekend saw two very easy nights when we expected to be hammered because it's a new menu. for those of you who didn't come in the star was the koftas and i'll be putting up the full recipe soon. a version will be on as a starter next week, to up our salad sales, and it'll be all new specials for next week. off to catch the champs elysee in the tour now.



Sunday, July 19, 2009

What's so special

We travel with increasing velocity towards our summer holiday. Swine flu fever has taken over our house and I’ve been banned from flying (along with the rest of our family). If things continue at this pace I’ll be holidaying in an oxygen tent in hospital. The last menu was one of my least favourite of recent times, although it seemed to be generally well-liked. I can’t really put my finger as to the reason why but I just felt that we did not really push ourselves; I didn’t get that excitement that you can feel when you really feel that the food is special.

That brings me nicely to the name of our next menu, ‘what’s so special’. This menu will run for the five weeks that precede our week off. The thought of a three and two week menu or two and three week menu was not a pleasant one but I also get very bored when we have to prepare the same stuff week-in, week-out. The compromise is that we will give ourselves some flexibility by having unannounced specials, although I shall be putting the details on the webpage. This gives us a chance to do a few things. First we get to run down stocks of stuff that we have in the freezer, things that we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw out. This means that one of the first desserts that we shall be doing is a white chocolate risotto, which will allow us to use the stock of white chocolate parfait that I couldn’t bear to discard a couple of menus ago. We will also be re-visiting the beetroot gazpacho, something involving smoked almond pesto and also the wild garlic malfatti. It will also allow me to stretch out a little and put on some dishes that I haven’t had a chance to do yet. Technically demanding dishes (Parisian gnocchi, gougeres) are sometimes left off menus because I can’t be bothered to give myself that extra hassle. However what we usually find is that by week two of the menu, we are pretty well grooved and the prep becomes more formulaic. This extra time means that during this menu these dishes will appear. The Parisian gnocchi will be based upon a dish that I once cooked at home based on a recipe by Thomas Keller, the owner/chef of the French Laundry in California. It is a true delight to eat because the gnocchi are made from a choux paste and are as light and delicate as gnocchi can be. The gougere is a baked choux paste, a profiterole, and I have wanted to do a savoury version because our sweet version was so unpopular. This will be Mexican profiteroles with a savoury cheese filling and a chocolate mole sauce. In my head it tastes like heaven. As some of you will be aware profiteroles were the break dish for me in my vegan chef mode and so it is unlikely that there will be a vegan version. The good news is that a vegan customer of ours has promised to send her vegan Yorkshire pudding recipe to me and if that works profiteroles could be back on the menu again.

One other promised vegan dish is spaetzle, which I tried some years ago on a skiing holiday in Austria. I tried to get a recipe for these on Friday, so fingers crossed.

The next menu, as it looks at the moment, is

Special (probably beetroot gazpacho with avocado sorbet)
Feta and watermelon salad (the salads may also be specials)
Meze with lavash. The meze are likely to be from around the world rather than north African or Spanish or greek or ……We’ve been talking about various things and whilst most will be familiar to you, there should be dishes that we’ve never done before on this dish (in a bid to empty our store cupboard) You’re probably sick to death of lavash so if you are let me know.

Stir fry with Indonesian cashew sauce (my own favourite dish) there is a chance that this dish will change to buddha’s delight or disappear altogether if I get sick of stir-frying.
Risotto with mutton and red pepper ragu (this can be ordered as veggie with other stuff possibly)
Pineapple, butternut and plantain curry ( a nod here to Jamie oliver, pukka)
Special, which I haven’t decided yet but is likely to involve cous cous, halloumi and tomatoes. What about a burger?

Raspberry ripple cheesecake (this could be altered over the course of the menu because on the last menu we mis-judged the gooseberry season and the bushes had been stripped at hendrewennol when we came to the final week)
Chocolate fudge cake (could revert to type and put sticky toffee or maybe have both)
Special (I’ve given the game away; this is the white chocolate risotto with some berries)

The kids are getting on my back about tea so I’ll bid you all farewell. Vino’s off on holiday so he hasn’t given me any selections so here are some of mine

Understanding electricity: official secret’s act
Therese: the bodines
Doesn’t make it alright: the specials
Consolation prize: orange juice
Backwards and forwards: Aztec camera
Lucia di lammermoor: Donizetti, 1955 berlin
Simpatico: joan of arc
Slipslide: the world can wait
This fragile army: the polyphonic spree

Love and light


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the secret is in the small print

i think i mentioned that we've been shortlisted by the veg soc again and one of the things that we will have to do is send them a complete list of ingredients for every item on the next menu. this is to guarantee that each item is indeed suitable for vegetarians. sometimes it's pretty obvious, other times less so.
for example last year there was a question about whether the wine vinegar that we used was suitable and i have to say that i hadn't given it too much thought (it was). things are more complicated for us because we also have the vegan/coeliac element to consider. at the moment we have the artichoke and mushroom rillette on the menu. the artichoke is on because we prepared too much when we had the risotto on some time ago and they are just marinated in oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice and herbs, then blitzed.
the mushroom rillette is sauteed onions, then sherry vinegar, sherry (vegan), herbs, a little stock from porcini and cashews blitzed. when the sherry ran out i used chinese rice wine and hey presto, no longer gluten free. the two bottles of rice wine we have both have wheat as a listed ingredient so i've made an alternative with port (which is not vegan).

sometimes the mental gymnastics are such that i think my head will explode and sometimes we have made mistakes. usually i catch them in time, i've run up the restaurant after pasta dishes in the past, but i have had to apologise on a couple of occasions when it's been too late. we're lucky that our customers appreciate what we are trying to achieve, so thank you for that.

the next menu is likely to be our best ever because it's going to be relatively fluid with dishes appearing and dis-appearing as we try to run down our stocks of food for our week long summer break. more on that next week.



Sunday, July 12, 2009

two stone lighter

i've just recovered from last night. from 7.30 until 10.00 we were hammered. i lost about two stone of water during the night because the whole resaturant was boiling hot. that was strange because the night was foul but the combination of lots of people coming in slightly damp, the heavy atmosphere and the numbers of people meant that it was not the most comfortable night. the dish of the night was the hardest to plate, the tomato gateau (more to come soon) and that doesn't help for a smooth service. one table had too long a wait, which i discussed with them at the end of the evening, and we sent them on their way with some mint for an impromptu pimm's party that they were having later.

the bad news is that the two stone was back when i woke this morning.

ah well


Friday, July 10, 2009

hairy gooseberries and the vegsoc awards

two things to say.

the first is that it is quite incredible how hairy gooseberries are. not only that but the fibres run through the goosgog and the little blighters look exactly like hair. quite unsettling in the middle of service.

we've also been shortlisted for the vegsoc awards with a possible night out to london on offer at the end of october. a big thank you to everyone who followed the link and voted for us.

a big thank you also to the makers of burneze after i scalded (then scolded) myself whilst making the chocolate sauce yesterday evening.

random recipe: imam bayeldi

this forms part of the gateau, was a starter on the last menu, will form part of the next menu and has been a main in its own right. a staple of the canteen and the best thing imaginable to dip with anything.

you will need

tin of tomatoes
some parsley and coriander
half a teaspoon of cumin, coriander, ground all spice, ginger, smoked paprika (could be more if you want)
1 onion
handfull raisins/sultanas
olive oil, quite a lot

sweat the onion in a decent amount of oil, more than you would normally use, until soft then add the spices and cook out over a low/med heat for a couple of minutes. add the tomaotoes and the raisins and cook out for ten minutes.

dice the aubergine, oil and roast in a 200c oven until tender and browned. add to the tomato mix.
chop the herbs and add.
add a little more oil if it isn't glistening.

put in the fridge and allow the flavours to develop for a couple of days.

it's brilliant in front of the telly with some crusty french bread.



Monday, July 6, 2009


The wonders of computers never cease to amaze; I’m sitting typing and watching ‘the Colbert report’ at the same time. The last menu is over and it is time for a new one to begin. I am quite a fan of the menu that we just finished, although I’m not sure if new customers would be as wowed as by some of the others. One serious mis-judgement was the profiteroles. I had imagined that they would be the best selling dessert and was worried that I would run out every night. My worries were groundless, they sold like the proverbial cold cakes. They were so bad that we’ll be resurrecting them in the future as a starter and a main course, gougeres and savoury paris-brest. The runaway hit for me was the ratatouille and I’ll be enjoying some in some stuffed mushrooms for lunch today. The secret is to cook everything separately, fry the courgette, roast the aubergine and peppers and slowly dry the tomatoes. Then make a dressing with lemon juice, smoked paprika, agave, cumin, oil and seasoning. Dress the stew, heat and serve.

We’ll be borrowing ideas from elsewhere again on the next menu. For some reason we had a recipe bookmarked and have decided to do a version. This was for lavash nachos with nice stuff and we’ll be marrying them up with our old favourites, smoked aubergine cream (baba gannoush) and imam bayeldi, as well as a guacamole made from peas and broccoli. Beetroot was not going to appear on this menu but ben and anne let me borrow some of their moosewood recipe books and that got me book-searching on the web. The upshot is that our gazpacho has become a beetroot gazpacho and the humble beetroot is back. I’m off for a couple of days on the next menu so to keep things as easy as possible there’ll be no pasta dish, so pierogi fans will have to wait a little longer; it’ll be worth the wait. The last starter is the courgette cannelloni.

For mains we’ve also kept it quite simple. A vegetable tagine (I’ll be making ras-el-hanout) on Monday, thai red mutton curry, a rice flour galette filled with a szechuan tofu, mushroom and sweet potato stew and pea, broad bean, lemon and mint risotto. So a couple of new dishes and a couple that are re-workings of other stuff that we’ve done. For desserts we have the same-old, same-old sticky toffee, a caramel cheesecake with hazelnut brittle and a napoleon/mille feuille of hazelnut biscuits and apple with berry sauce.

A new, irregular section now, an introduction to the canteen music maestro, vino. Vino’s great achievements so far are a mention of our restaurant on the 6 music show by cerys matthews and a compilation of new kids on the block. This is his first list

My trawl through the airwaves and tracklistings of various radio shows and web channels (last fm what a find that is, keeps me going on a night shift I can tell you), has thrown up a few gems.
I hope you like them
Broken Records - Until the earth begins to part
Grizzly bear - Southern point
Empire of the sun - We are the people
Hot Chip - Ready for the floor
The Doors - Touch me
Stevie Wonder - we can work it out
Fleet Foxes - He doesn't know why and Mykonos (reminds me of Midlake, ask Paul when you see him next)

Grizzly Bear - a top new band anything by them is worth a play.

Other news now. We may be contributing some recipes to the publication ‘Cardiff Life’ as part of a series that they are putting together. I’m writing them at the moment but, as you’ll know from these, I’m not very good when it comes to measuring.

Friday, July 3, 2009

thank you alex and leanne and alex's girlfriend whose name i've forgotten and stuart's girlfriend's

on thursday, the new menu. the aubergine gateau looks good but sometimes looks can be deceptive. alex's girlfriend ordered the gateau on the recommendation of leanne and whilst it is nice, she did not enjoy it as much as we would have hoped because the tomatoes were too watery.
Beefsteaks, even when sat in garlic and lemon and oil still do not hold enough flavour. the result was that we have changed these in favour of the reduced cherry toms and plums that we have been drying out. stuart's girlfriend's mother wanted more flavour in the beans, so we've now upped the garlic content, i think to the benefit of the dish as a whole.

thanks to everyone who plays a part in this restaurant.