Monday, November 30, 2009

oops, i forgot the recipes

i was so busy on sunday that when i wrote the newsletter i forgot to put any recipes in. i shall make up for that omission by doing a quick one now, before university challenge starts. many people (2) said that the chocolate and orange cheesecake that we did on the weekend was the best that they had ever eaten. two people doesn't sound too much but only about 5 went out. this is a two-in-one because i'll give vegan and non-vegan.

200g (dairy-free) 70% chocolate
200ml creme fraiche (200ml soy milk)
400g cream cheese (i use quark because it is virtually fat-free and i care about you all, i really do) (1 pack of silken tofu)
1.5 oranges, juiced and zest grated.
100g sugar
2 large eggs (omit from vegan)

use the juice and the sugar to make an orange syrup in the microwave by heating and stirring.

heat the creme fraiche(soy milk) and use this to melt the chocolate. add the other ingredients and whisk together (i'm lazy and use a hand blender and spatula to scrape the sides). tap the bowl to get rid of air bubbles if you can be bothered, they don't bother me too much.

my base was gluten free cornflakes, sugar and butter (soy marg).

heat oven to 180c and cook the base. take out and allow to cool. drop oven temp to 145C. once the base is cool, pour in cheesecake mix and cook in a bain marie. (you should have used a springform pan up until now, i forgot to say) once there is only a very slight wobble left in the middle, remove and allow to cool. refrigerate until needed.

i've missed the first ten minutes so i'm going to get the rest.



Friday, November 27, 2009

not (quite) living up to dan's expectations

when dan comes in we know we're going to get a fair and balanced critique of the food on offer and last night was no exception. the meal was cazumsiei (spellcheck this for me), gnocchi and bread pudding. i'm afraid to say that it was not an unqualified success. the first and last course passed muster, and i'm pleased to say we had no mistletoe hanging, but the gnocchi did not ring the right bells. the question as to what was missing and what can be done is a simple application of Occam's Razor (look it up); salt. many's the time in the past when we have been hammered about seasoning (well not that many) but the way that i make gnocchi (and you'll be able to see that soon on our webcasts) is to roast the potatoes, mouli them and then turn them into a dough. i like them this way and love the potato taste but i guess that a little salt here and there would not go amiss. i shall endeavour to do better.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

cooking shows forecast

we were thinking of doing some cooking shows for the website. many of the dishes we do would probably be easier understood if i showed you how to make them, rather than giving vague measurements in a blog, most of which are probably wrong. so, in the not too distant future, we will start the series with a pasta masterclass, something on vegan cheeses and creams and maybe some gnocchi as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

lazy days ahead and a vegan warning

with the exception being the christmas menu, which is beginning to take shape quite nicely, i'll be taking a few weeks (months) off from the creative process of sticking together menus. whilst we beg, borrow and steal some of the dishes, others do involve alot of hard head work. the gnocchi always kill me because it is very hard getting vegan gnocchi just right, not just mentally but physically as well because the dough takes some shifting and you can never be too sure that the end result is not going to be some gloopy mess or rubber. so, as i was lazing in my bath this morning, waching two episodes of 'everybody loves raymond' and looking through cookbooks by tamasin day-lewis, peter gordon, dennis cotter and paul gayler, i thought to myself, 'why not devote entire menus to the stuff that i really like in these books?' and so being lazy, that's what i'm planning to do.

after christmas we shall be visiting the pages of my favourite cookbooks and sampling the delights prepared, for the first time anyway, by other cooks. of course we'll be doing the dishes our way, it will not be a complete exerccise in plagiarism, but the credit shall be given where it is due.

vegan warning: bryanna clark grogan is removing the vegan feast newsletters from the web. you can access them for the moment, and can probably still join for $10 canadian. possibly one of the most inventive cooks around, always imaginative and thought-provoking. if you like vegan food, you should access the site whilst you have the chance.



Friday, November 13, 2009

it's all in the spelling

last night was quite a night. we under-staffed and it got quite busy at one point. either my tastebuds were off or nothing really tasted as good as it had the week before. whether that was because of the slightly hectic pace, i couldn't say but the one dish that always hits the mark is the casumziei. i had a little discussion with a regular customer of ours who couldn't find it on the internet and said that i had made the name up. we have done that in the past but my imagination does not run as far as casumziei. the eplanation is alot simplar, sins the last menw i seme to hav forgoten how to spel, it is casumziei, not cazumsiei as it appears on the online menu (i'm leaving it that way as a penance). It could be casunziei as well. do a search on these and also add batali, the chef that i first saw do this, and then do our recipe, the brown butter makes the dish ten times nicer. so back to school for me and let's get those other dishes just write for today, sorry that should have been wright, no rite.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

disappointed from the vale

i was very excited this week and it was the fault of really. i have spent several pounds buying books and cds from the US. As such then send me emails to let me know of similar books and cds that i might be interested in. The particular book that caught my eye was entitled, 'great chefs cook vegan', and was a compendium of 3 and 4 course menus that some of the best chefs in the US had put together. names that you may have heard are Thomas keller (we've done one of his), jean-georges vongerichten and loads of others. because i like to buy in bundles, and that is what amazon are after anyway, i looked through some of the titles in the category, 'people who bought this book also bought'. in the end i had 7 vegan cookbooks on the way. they arrived, as ever, in drips and drabs. two titles first then five. when the five arrived i made myself read the other four before starting the main book. the others were very good, vegan guides to mexico, india and somewhere else offering up one or two interesting dishes apiece. the italian vegan was very good as was a second book on asian cooking. finally i had had enough of the starters and wanted to tuck in to the main course. What set the book apart was the photography. a few of the other books had no photographs at all, merely recipes. this had wall-to-wall photography of each dish, in-depth recipes, chef profiles, the lot. except, well except for the thing that you need most, empathy. the recipes read like military operations and the compiling, done by a vegan named linda long, would have been all the better had each of the chefs been told what the others were doing. i counted 4 (or 5, i never really counted) starter dishes of beetroot with various sauces. the whole book lacked what is most important in any cooking but more so in vegan cookery, imagination. i had hoped that this would unlock the secrets to a classical approach to vegan cookery but it appears that it does not exist. certainly if these chefs can't find it, then it must be bloody hard to find.

the upshot is i'll be returning to the best of them all, in my opinion, eric tucker, and re-reading the two millenium restaurant books. there-in lie recipes and pictures(not too many, not enough really) that excite both the imagination and the taste-buds. if you want to take a look at this (coffee-table) book, let me know and i'll let you have a lend.

cheers and two beers (i've already had a rum in my hot chocolate after golf)


Monday, November 9, 2009

a quick review and was that one really

this is the space where i review the first weekend of the new menu. thursday was hectic. First a meeting with the environmental health officer for our regular check up, the new digital thermometer i order from nisbets didn't work so i kicked, and very nearly broke, the sink. then eight hours of very intense prep, an occasional ten minute break, and finally opening with everything just about done. a very quiet night followed and that was good. friday and saturday were a good deal more hectic and on the whole the food went down quite well. the feedback that we get is first how much comes back and goes into the bin. this was a very good weekend for that and dusty was still very hungry on saturday.

of the starters the pancake was an unbelievable seller. i don't think it's as tasty as the casumziei but it's a close run thing and it seems to appeal to joe. the soup is delish but it's soup so, go figure.

of the mains the most popular would have been, seems amazing to say this given the speciality of the restaurant, the beef. one diner said that it was better than at thai thai, but i don't eat it nor have i eaten there, so i have no means of comparison. i just remembered that i do have some of the veg rendang in the fridge though and that is pretty spectacular, better even that the thai curries, and i never thought i'd say that.

the gnocchi, well kelly didn't like them but andy and sharon (my gnocchissimos) did and that's good enough for me. as we do them vegan-way (nice grammar) the make up is particularly tricky. the secret is to get the starch content right. too little results in gluey slop and too much and the gnocchi are too solid. i'd say i erred on the side of caution and edged toward the latter, over the next 3 weeks i'll be moving formerly. the risotto is not to everyone's taste. this is the third and final step in our, 'how can we do the same dish three ways?' quest. it does it for me but not everyone is that keen on amaretti and if any dish comes back, it is this one.

i said in the blog above, the souffle is stunning, but that is now a was because it's off. next weekend it'll be something else, probably a mille feuille. the bread pudding is vegan and as such it is not as light as one made with eggs would be but the feedback has been excellent.

so that is my review which brings me nicely to one that has been appearing on the review sites. i'd really love to speak to vegan4love to find out what food you had etc. when you came in. if you exist, and i don't believe that you do, please come in for a chat. i'm really not as arrogant as veggiefreak would have you believe but then are you she? (or is that a he?). if the food really was as bad as you say, why not mention the individual dishes? so, if you exist, please come in and see us, we'd like to put it right.



Sunday, November 8, 2009

a recipe for max and a bit of a moan

friday was a great night, full up and a really buzzy atmosphere. the star of the weekend for me were the souffles, which went down very well on thursday, very few people, and were served with a strawberry sorbet that i was told wasa sytep too far. as you may know, i'm a great fan of sod's law, and so on friday we took off the sorbet and just served the souffle naked, only to be told that it needed something sharp. in the words of nobody in particular, 'you can satisfy some people all of the time blah blah blah'.

So friday did buzz and we had a birthday party in for dean, one of whom, max, is wheat intolerant. he ordered souffle, sans sorbet, and enjoyed it very much so i said i'd do a recipe. As many may know, i'm not too good at measurements, preferring to do it without a safety net, so these will be rough guides.

we use elderberry jam and i'm sure i've put that recipe up somewhere, this works for any jam. to serve four you will need about 4 dessert spoons of jam. heat this in a small pan and prepare a slurry of cornflour (water and cornflour, mixed with your finger to ensure no lumps, not too much water, say 30 ml and 25g of cornflour) add this to the jam in batches and heat. it will thicken and once it becomes a paste that you can still stir pretty easily, stop and allow to cool. put your paste into a bowl. In another bowl separate out three medium eggs, doing what you will with the yolks (you can whisk them into your paste if you detest waste, or freeze by whisking in a little sugar and reserve for brulees (two weeks time)).whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy then add 1 oz sugar and beat until stiff peaks are starting to form. take one third of the egg whites and whisk into the paste (you can be vigorous) then add the rest of the egg whites and fold in with a spoon or using a decent sized whisk, draw everything together and allow to fall through the whisk. it takes a couple of minutes but it is worth it in the end.

once everything is nicely incorporated, put your mix into ceramic (must be, metal ones will not work, just ask the first few customers who had my christmas pudding souffle last year) ramekins that have been buttered and then sugared.

cook in a pre heated oven at 180 C until well-risen and firmish. they'll stay up for a couple of minutes no problem, so plenty of time to look good for the guests.

my moan: the vegetarian society, who very graciously agreed to have four of us go up to london and attempt to drink the bar dry, would not give us the feedback on the decision to award the best (non-approved) restaurant to greens in manchester. when i say feedback, i mean the review of us. are we too noisy (the man from del monte, he say yes (great band, by the way)), what did they think of the food, the mabience etc etc. Really it is the only way to move forward, to get some criticism and is the reason that i put you good people through it every night. so i was hoping to pass on the feedback to you, those who pay to come, to see what a bad deal you're all getting, but i have nothing to say.

on a more positive note, we did have a very nice review in the christmas issue of "cook vegetarian" magazine. a subscription to this would make a great christmas present and you'd get two rose elliot books free (that's enough plugging! ed.)

anyway, enjoy the souffle, if we get another oven, which looks likely, we'll probably make them more often.

cheers and beers (i may have one this afternoon)