Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review of current menu

wherever appropriate i think i'll make this a regular spot. i'll put the menu up and comment on each of the dishes.

Samosas with tamarind and date ketchup and banana raita (v, co?)

not a coeliac option and cannot be because it would involve more deep frying. started out using thin pasta dough, the same as samosa dough but it was a little underseasoned. we've now progressed (regressed) to spring roll pastry. this is tastier but also a little greasier. i'm upping the size as well. they were nice but i would have wanted more

Sweet potato and lentil cakes with szechuan dipping sauce (v, c)

want these to be vegan so no egg. this means that their a little drier/crumblier than they could be but they do taste really nice. the szechuan sauce is lovely. no change.

Sopa azteca with corn chips (v, c)

this is a really lovely soup. maybe you want it spicier but i don't. has complex flavour.

Main Course
Texan beef chilli with arroz verde (c)

my attempt at arroz verde on thursday was a total failure. i added the spinach and corainder at the start of cooking and by the end all the colour had gone. more arroz dirty greeny brown. tony's subsequent efforts were much more successful. we'll pack a little more flavour in this week with some garlic as well. i'm sure the chilli was good but be warned, it is texan so it is beef.

Vegetarian chilli with arroz verde (v, c)

to my taste, and comments above noted, delicious. may add some tvp for a meatir texture.

Fresh corn polenta with imam bayeldi and onion, cucumber and pomegranate salad (vo, c)

polenta could have been creamier, imam bayeldi possibly spicier but i ate two bowls and want more this week.

Buddha's delight (v, co)

i can't fault this dish, others can. i'm not changing it though.

Autumn vegetable cassoulet (v)

vegetables too soft/roasted too long on thursday. started to break down and the sauce was too thick. better at the end of the weekend.


i've nothing bad to say. possibly could put some thyme on the plums but it is in the sauce and is maybe a little lost.

Chocolate fudge cake with chocolate sauce and ice cream (v, co)
Sticky toffee cake with toffee sauce and ice cream (v, co)
Cannoli with elderberry ricotta and blackberries (vo)
Figs roasted in wine, agave, cinnamon and thyme with sweetened ricotta (vo, c)

next menu is beginning to take shape.



Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who was sod?

whoever sod was, i'd like to give him (i'm assuming) a piece of my mind. why does his law seem to strike at the worst time.

thursday: as you'll know, at least those of you who pay attention, we had some inspectors in on a training exercise. we could have played it safe, gone for the previous, delicious menu, but we thought we'd take a few risks, introduce some new dishes. now as many of you may know, it is often the case that the first time a dish is tried in its entirety is when it served to the first paying customer. this was to be the case on thursday and those customers were to be the inspectors. but that is not when sod appeared, rather he appeared when constructing the banana raita. we had no yofu. there had been a slight misunderstanding in the day about who was to get it but chris (the lovely man at the hungry planet) and his wife ruth (alos lovely) are always very helpful when it comes to our last minute lack of planning. thursday, no yofu and time was getting on. so for the first time in twenty months we made a non-vegan raita. in the hustle ande bustle leading up to a busy service i didn't tell the girls that the raita was non-vegan and during service a vegan samosas was ordered.

this is when a friendly hand came and settled the score with sod, who was determined to ruin our night. the vegan lady asked leanne if the raita was vegan. leanne knows we make all our sauces thus but came to ask, so before any real problems were encountered i whisked the offending starter away and replaced it with the vegan version.

a happy ending you might say but sod had the last laugh. this was of course witnessed by 17 inspectors.

c'est la vie

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Latest menu

Good to be back

September 24 - October 10

Samosas with tamarind and date ketchup and banana raita (v, co?)
Sweet potato and lentil cakes with szechuan dipping sauce (v, c)
Sopa azteca with corn chips (v, c)

Main Course (£8.95)
Texan beef chilli with arroz verde and something else (c)
Vegetarian chilli with the same (v, c)
Fresh corn polenta with imam bayeldi and onion, cucumber and pomegranate salad (vo, c)
Buddha's delight (v, co)
Autumn vegetable cassoulet (v)

Chocolate fudge cake with chocolate sauce and ice cream (v, co)
Sticky toffee cake with toffee sauce and ice cream (v, co)
Cannoli with elderberry ricotta and blackberries (vo)
Figs roasted in wine, agave, cinnamon and thyme with sweetened ricotta (vo, c)

Any two courses for £11.50, three courses £13.50

Please specify if vegan or coeliac options are required.

c-suitable for coeliacs, v-suitable for vegans
co-coeliac option, vo-vegan option .

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An apology and a recipe

sometimes i underestimate the power of my own voice so i must apologise to the couple who sat down on saturday night, stayed for twenty seconds, then got up and left. maybe the combination of the wedding present in the speakers, myself blaring out the lyrics of kennedy from the pass, and the thought of that for an entire evening was too much. fortunately for us, ben and anne popped in so i was able to sing to them all night and pass on the little present that i had for them. is it true that every cloud has a silver lining or is that just bull?

anyway another menu bites the dust and the pannacotta recipe is finally a success. it didn't take long, just the entire menu, before it came together but it did, so here it is.

you will need (infinite patience)

150 ml mango puree
300 ml coconut milk
50 ml agave nectar
1 sachet vegegel

put all ingredients together in a microwave safe jug and, to ensure good distribution of the gel, blitz with a hand blender then put it away.

place in micro for 2 mins on full power. take out and whisk. back in, 1 min, and whisk. depending on the power of your microwave, this should be enough.

pour in to ramekins, leave for a few hours in the fridge and they should unmould beautifully.

don't use the blender again because this seemed to destroy the gel and result in what we'll be calling on a future menu, a mango and coconut cream.

serve with a salsa made from lime segments, passion fruit, kiwis and sweetened with agave.

happy hair-pulling



Saturday, September 19, 2009

And finally

and finally the nightmare of mango pannacotta is behind us. i've just taken two minutes to check up whether any problems are encountered when trying to set mango and it appears not. the only excuse can be, and it isn't much of an excuse, that i'm pretty poor at making mango and coconut pannacotta.

i'd like to think that we got about a dozen right but that's not really a very good success rate. i'm retiring mango from the pannacotta roster for the moment but might try a white chocolate one soon.

new menu coming soon.



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blackberry picking

i am a blackberry picker of some 35 years experience. when i was very young, and the summers seemed hotter and longer, we'd hunt blackberries in packs, hoping to sell some to housewives who had little time to be wandering through fields of thorns.

there was always something special about finding good blackberries. for me that meant large, well-formed, not too bulbous, and to come upon such fruit, even just a few, made the whole thing worthwhile. the sister plant of the blackberry would appear to be the nettle and this, in addition to bramble thorns, is the main obstacle to the blackberry picker. as i have aged i have become more tooled-up in my search. now you will see me, possibly on the roof of my car trying to pick from the top, accessorised with a golf club and a pair of kitchen scissors, in the forlorn hope that i can avoid injury. from my last two forays i have spinters in my fingers and the remainder of tens of nettle stings up my arms. the wonder of nettles is that they can grow so bloody tall. you can be ten foot up, hanging from the car in search of that elusive blackberry, glimpsed briefly from below, and just as you first touch its lustrous skin, the searing pain from the unseen nettle top invades your senses. as you drop that berry, so juicy and now unknowable, a kind of masochism drives you on; must get more, find more.

i think it is that masochism that differentiates the blackberry hunter, and hunters of other wild foods, from others, that, and the ability to conduct long and involved conversations with themselves and their fruit. certainly most of my conversations at the time are with the thorns that i am plocking from my skin with my teeth, or congratualtions to the nettle that caught me unawares or sprang back from my golf club to shake my hand.

the spoils are worth it though. in two hours, maybe a little less, i picked a couple of kilos of free fruit; black juicy and delicious.

i will probably develop a dessert around them for the next menu, i'm thinking canoli and i'm also thinking cashew nut ricotta sweetened with the elberberry jelly i made.

get out there and pick, but remember to leave some for the birds.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Remember the rosehips experiment?

Well we got back to work and the weather took a turn for the better. That’s two consecutive years when the pick of the weather has been june and September, maybe we should start to re-classify the seasons. As I’ve blogged, blackberries are out in abundance at the moment and, as this is the last week before lecturing starts once again, I shall once more be treading the back-lanes of the vale in search of free fruit. I’d better be successful or one of our desserts will be a disaster, a cannoli with elberberry ricotta (cashew ricotta for vegans) and blackberries. I started this dish last week by cutting some elderberry stems and making an extreme amount of jam. I’ve also started the year’s vodka production and currently have elderberry and blackberry on the go. I’ve plans to defrost some of my saved raspberries and also to experiment with rosehips, although the horror story reported to me by one of our regulars is making me think twice.

The undoubted disaster of the last menu was the pannacotta, not in terms of flavour but in terms of set. I’m glad to say that by the last night we had got it right.

To what next. We’ve been playing our game of spot the critic as we’re due, or have already been visited by, critics from the vegetarian society. I thought I’d picked them out on saturday, a most unusual service, but unless the lady was extremely quick on her feet and an accomplished liar to boot, it was not them. I do hope that they came for this menu because it was a rather nice one. Our only problem was with the cassoulet, and that is because we roast the vegetable first and then add them. If I cook it in too large a quantity the veg can tend to disintegrate and you lose the essential unctuous tomato taste. That said, it and the buddha’s delight will be on the next menu.

I’ve just emailed this off to a guy who is bringing in 18 on Thursday and I’ve just received an email explaining who they are. It turns out that we’ve 18 inspectors coming in to visit and the organiser is none other than simon wright of y polyn fame, ex-AA guide editor. It looks like we’d better sort ourselves out better than we do for most first Thursdays. I’ll also have to consider my final dessert with a little more care and attention than I was planning.

I think that we have finally booked martin Stephenson on the 17th January, a Sunday night. It will be £22.50 a ticket and will include a three course meal; an easy one so that I can do more watching than cooking. It should be a great night and we have only a limited number of tickets still available.

That is another effortless segue onto the subject of music. Our resident pop-picker vino has these recommendations.

Friendly Fires - Kiss of Life 
David Bowie - Oh! you pretty things 
Magazine - Shot by Both Sides 
Blur - The Universal 
Editors - The Racing Rats 
Dodgy - Stayin out for the summer 
Elbow - One Day Like this 
Eels - Novocaine for the soul 
The Fall - Touch Sensitive 
Martin Stephenson and the Daintees - Wholly Humble Heart (couldn't resist putting this one in) 

Bon Appetit 

I’d like to add to that list a US band called Hockey, last week featured in the Sunday times, all around good guys who bought everyone who went to see them at clwb ifor a drink a couple of months back.

Blackberries are only with us for another week or so, and with the nice weather set to remain, get out there and do those blackberries proud. Maybe I’ll see you out there and we can fight for that elusive, perfect blackberry.

Love and light


Sunday, September 6, 2009

stop the world, I'm getting off!

no, not a reference to something sexual more an allusion (i'm mis-using the word, i think) to the week, or rather thursday, just passed. it started with the trip back from wet and windy west wales where we had been holed up inside a caravan for five days.   i did don my (new) wet-suit once more as a show of defiance and it was with this mood that we started afresh on thursday. we don't do long days anymore, not since we consigned day times to the past, and so early starts to make all the cakes, fail to make the pannacottas correctly, make about three litres of green curry paste- this alone meant chopping about seventy blades of lemon grass- and generally learning the new menu meant that we were tired.

oh boo hoo i hear you say and you may be right but just as i was starting the coeliac ravioli the phone went.

'hello, canteen, wayne speaking. how can i help?'

'it's environmental health. your annual check is due, can you open the door?'

after scraping myself and any of the other detritus that lay strewn there after our marathon session, we opened the doos and let her in. we have nothing to hide but we also don't do everything that we should. we do take temperatues of fridges and freezers but don't always write them down. we should and we will do so now, especially as we have been told to do so, but the forty or so minutes meant that we were well behind for service.

what else could go wrong? our six burner is a little temperamental to say the least and two minutes into cooking decided to take the night off. she came back to cheers at 10-30 but by that time it was too late. we had completed a service on two rings and a hot-plate. needless to say, tony and i needed a rest.

now what really bothers me is that i've since been informed (this is hearsay i'm afraid) that inspections of this sort only happen when a complaint has been made. i wrote about our enemy a few blogs ago and i know i'm putting two and two together but i would like to think that whatever we had done, somebody wouldn't stoop that low. i guess we'll never know but i'm sure glad i'm taking my full holiday at christmas now.

cheers (and i maybe having a beer)


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Martin Stephenson

Well, we have reached our summer break and I don’t think any of us are actually using it. I’m caravanning (is there really an extra n?) and watching the rain fall outside, tony is probably walking somewhere and leanne is probably sleeping until 7 every evening. We almost booked a late holiday to Greece (kos) but were thwarted by somebody else doing the same thing at the same time; ergo when we started there were enough flights, when we finished there weren’t. many tears (all mine) later and several more fruitless hours of searching (discarding a Turkish option along the way) we were packing to go to west wales. I am in the process of putting some recipes together from the last menu because we thought that it was one of our most successful yet. Being able to change things in an ad hoc manner, keeping most of our options available whilst fiddling with one or two starters and the occasional main course or dessert, has been quite fulfilling. The real advantage is that it’s easier and I’m quite lazy but it has also meant that we can push the boat out in ways that we would otherwise not do, for example the Parisian gnocchi or the gougers. These dishes are a little more tricky to do than our normal fare and would represent a bit of a headache if included as part of a full menu. (you’ll already be aware that I’ve used up the ‘headache’ menu title as well, so that would be another headache)

I think that that may well be the path that we travel in the future, with a more fluid menu and more regular changes but with some dishes staying on longer than the normal three weeks. The next menu is still up in the air, particularly if kate books for Sardinia (things are moving fast even since I started this newsletter), but this is the current version.

A soup, possibly African peanut
Butternut ravioli with lemon, sage and butter sauce
Not duck rolls

(update, hotel in Sardinia is gone, we’re back in the caravan watching the rain)

autumn cassoulet
buddha’s delight
thai green (free range) chicken curry
a risotto

coconut and cardamom pannacotta with kiwi and lime salsa
sticky toffee
chocolate fudge
possibly a fruit strudel (blackberry and apple?)

sound pretty nice and shouldn’t be too taxing.

It was at this time last year that we were reviewed by the veg soc people and, to our horror, they chose all the experiments on the menu. Now they’ve either been already, and I’d be pretty happy with what we’ve done, or they’ll be in during this menu, which looks pretty strong.

Is anybody interested in a party?

I noticed that martin Stephenson is playing Newport in January but it’s on a staurday night. I am a long time fan of the daintees and probably saw them seven times between 1986 (keele university) (picure below)


and 1992, when I saw them at bristol university on crutches (I was on crutches). Both times we went for a drink with them back stage. Anyway I appear to be rambling, the point is that I can book martin for an appearance the night after the Newport gig and was going to do it as a canteen Christmas party (albeit in the middle of January). Anyone interested in coming, please let me know and I’ll set the wheels in motion. It really would be a great opportunity to hear one of the country’s best songwriters.

My pop picks for this month

Boat to Bolivia: martin Stephenson and the daintees
Magic touch: the golden silvers
Seagull - Half Sleep
The Foxes - Bill Hicks
New Rhodes - Come Into The Room
The Wedding Present - I Lost The Monkey
The new noah and the whale album that I’ll be getting as a present to compensate for no holiday