Sunday, November 21, 2010

sod's law strikes again, sorry about the table

saturday night, a table free. not free but unoccupied. we are waiting, we are waiting, the phone rings.what should we do? the table is booked but we 45 minutes have passed since and still no-one here. take the booking. ten minutes later and they arrive. but who is it. of course it is the table, an hour or so late but they are here and we cannot seat them. we feel terrible but what can we do? what should we have done?

go back 24 hours. the night is dead. wales are playing rugby and the wru owe us big time. only four tables are booked and thankfully one of those is a big party. of the other three tables, two don't show. what should we do? i've done it myself, so we don't ring. we have the number but we don't ring. sometimes you want to ring more than others. when you are full, you want to ring.

'we could have sold that table' you want to scream down the 'phone, 'where are your manners?'

but we don't ring. what's the point? to make myself more angry. i can do that without other people being involved so that's what i do.

on friday, it's not such a problem. a no-show when all the tables are free anyway, so what.

on saturday, i can only apologise. but in my defence, in three years, this is the only time that the no-show has been a show. every other time we just stand and look at the empty table.

and that's not good. the margins for us are very small. we are cheap and that is a policy. but sometimes this means that customers treat you cheap and that is not on. i keep the prices down because the only other solution is to shut the place down. that is why we shut at lunchtimes, because the other route means VAT and that means closing; we simply could not pay it. and that means three nights, some very quiet, thursday and friday, this week, and others busy, saturday last. the people who work for us deserve better than we can offer and that is why we do as much for you as we can. sometimes these people are treated very shabbily, and that happened last week. the upshot of this will be a new policy from next week. i rely heavily on the team that we have and if you value us, then please value them.

a bit sad now


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the recipe for cornbread

i've been asked for this recipe by two customers, so here it is.

you can veganise the recipe quite easily by using vegan cheese (hungry planet does several varieties) and using a mix of soya milk, silken tofu and tapioca starch as the egg substitute.

fry onion medium onion and two red peppers in olive oil until soft. do this over a medium heat because you don't want them to burn. grate two courgettes into a bowl and add the peppers and onions. grate 200g of mature cheddar and add this to the bowl as well as a 400g tin of sweetcorn, or the equivalent frozen or, when available, fresh. drain the sweetcorn first. Now add about 5oz of cornmeal grits or coarse polenta. we add the grits because i feel that the texture is a little better after. we get ours from shop rite on city road. add one heaped teaspoon of baking powder.

in a jug blend 125ml of double cream, one egg, 25ml of lime juice. put all the ingredients together in the bowl and mix. this mix should not be too wet but should drop from a spoon easily. set the oven to 160C and place your mix into a lined baking tray or into a silicone cake pan and bake until the mix is firm to the touch and nicely coloured.

this is the most delicious recipe, so enjoy



Sunday, November 14, 2010

ode to bill and eva (and leanne)

i would like to thank bill and eva for their incredible generosity last night and also to eva's parents. when lying awake this morning, i decided to do it in rhyme. here goes

the night didn't start well
when we found out that mel
was ill and couldn't come in
but thank you leanne
for upsetting your man
and working, though your food in the bin.

the service was fast
the clientele vast
all the tables were booked for the night
when in through the door
keith and chris, they did pour
though no table was there in sight

but the place where they sat
belonged to sara and nat
who had yet to come in through the door
and leanne she did swoon
as she looked round the room
for it looked likely that they'd eat on the floor

for a booking was taken
or should i say took
but had not been written down in the book
and the desserts, they were still
in the kitchen, not till
and for a table we had long time to look

then i spied near the till
there sat eva and bill
and her parents, who were in for the night
so with a rather bad head
i approached them and said
would you mind getting out of my sight

now the four took this well
and began to me tell
to take off that ridiculous frown
and the desserts, they appeared
and the table was cleared
and sara and nat, they sat down

twas a hard night, last night
and we finished midnight
when jill and the rest did depart
but to bill and leanne
to eva and her clan
may i say, thank you with all of my heart.

cheers guys, it's people like you who make this thing worth doing.

love and light


Friday, October 22, 2010

many thanks bill

today i must offer my thanks to bill jones, who has allowed me to borrow (welsh translation, lend)the full series of thirteen episodes of 'the dragon has two tongues'. this was first broadcast in the mid '80s, 1985 i think, and it either was repeated or it was broadcast in the summer, because i was a student in Stoke at the time.I think it was probably the first time that i became aware of the power of a disciplined mind, and that mind belonged to Professor Gwyn Alf Williams. had i not dropped out from the history of our kings and queens, and from the spinning jenny and the raddling nancy (source: blackadder 3) then i think it may have tempted me to pursue an alternative academic career. however it was too late for that, the die was cast. it was also presented by that arch-functionalist, wynford vaughn thomas, a man whose face darkened my screen through much of my early televisual life. i didn't really know what functionalism was back then, not having been introduced to this until my haralambos-dominated sociology course began, but it always struck me that his history was one dominated by a lack of conflict. on re-watching this magnificent series, my blood boils once again. i'm currently on part 11 of 13, wish me luck on getting to 13 in one piece.



Monday, October 18, 2010

do bad things come in threes? they may do but what about these recipes

this has taken me time to get done. for some reason the computer is going mad and i've had to come to the blog-site via a different route. does that count as bad thing number 1?

if not, thursday last could. we were fullish according to the bookings book and so had a full quota of staff on, but as 8.00 came and went our table of 10 didn't show. it was a pain, could have been a phantom booking (we've had many) and what pushed us to that way of thinking was the phantom telephone number. thursday was a bit of a pain, although not that hard to do. but .....

friday, said party turn up for their table and we have nowhere to put them. this for me was the worst aspect because it was a birthday party and we're not exactly in the middle of town. fortunately thai thai is close by and i sent them there. i can only hope that they had room because i felt pretty bad.

not as bad as i was too feel a minute later when i got back to the kitchen. with my absence, kelly had taken over the ravioli plating and was just about to finish when something caught the jug of hot brown butter sauce and sent it careering off the table and onto the floor (i was still finding stuff on the wall the following day). this knocked us back by 15 minutes, what with clean up and re-cooking, and we never recovered.

the menu is a nice one. the posh chilaquiles have been a hit, the casumziei, as always, ignored for two days, when i had prepped the stuff, and popular on saturday when i hadn't. mad pasta making in the middle of service but luckily it was for sharon and andy and friends, who are always very forgiving. the pakoras (Q. what is the difference between a pakora and a bhaji? A. Apparently the outer layer on a bhaji is thicker than on a pakora) are my favourite, especially with a thai curry paste.

thanks must go to isa chandra moskowitz for the brownie-pumpkin recipe, the brownie will become a part of this place.

as i've just done a handout for the food festival, here are a lot of recipes

Black Bean chilaquiles with feta, sour cream and chunky guacamole

one onion, finely chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced,
100ml dry sherry
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried mixd herbs
1 tablespoon of chipotle in adobo
1 measure of ground coffee
100ml orange juice
200g of black beans, soaked overnight and drained

fry onion, carrot and celery until soft. add garlic and fry on low heat for 5 minutes. turn up the heat and add the sherry and reduce by half. add cumin, paprika, herbs, chipotle paste, coffee and orange juice and allow to cook gently for 5 minutes. add the black beans and cover with vegetable stock. cook until the beans are starting to break down, being sure to check that there is enough stock. once cooked allow to cool.


Finely chop one red onion, and halve 200g of cherry tomatoes. mix and season with lime juice, salt, sugar, fresh coriander and pepper. Add the chopped flesh of one avocado to serve.

Sweet and sour tomatoes

Set oven at 180C. Roast 200g of cherry tomatoes in olive oil, sprinkling with sugar and white wine vinegar. Roast until just starting to break down.

For the chilaquiles you will need some 4" discs cut out from wheat or corn tortillas. Set a deep fat fryer at 190C and once ready, fry the discs until golden and crispy and are now nachos. Drain on kitchen roll.

To assemble

place a little sour cream on the plate and place one disc on top. add some black beans, sweet and sour tomatoes and feta to the top of the nacho. place another nacho on top and repeat until you have four layers in total. Top with more sour cream and coriander to garnish.

Scatter the rest of the plate with chunky guacamole.

Courgette and carrot koftas with rocket, satsuma and beetroot and smoked chilli dressing.


1 400g tin of chickpeas
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 preserved lemon (optional)
a handful of chopped mint, parsley and coriander, in whatevr proportions you like.

Place the ingredients (leave chickpeas out) in a food processor and blend until pureed. add the chickpeas and process, leaving some whole for texture. Place in a bowl.

grate one small carrot and one small courgette and add to the bowl. add about 3 tablespoons of gram flour, enough to remove most of the moisture from the bowl.

heat fryer to 190C. take dessertspoons of the mix and drop into the oil, four at a time. fry until golden. if the mix is too wet it will start to breakdown, so increase the amount of gram flour.

Drain on kitchen roll.

Smoked chilli dressing

1 teaspoon of chipotle paste
300 ml yoghurt
Grated jaggery and lime juice to taste.

place the first two ingredients in a jug and process with a hand blender. add the jaggery and lime juice in small quantities until you have the right blend of sour, sweet and heat.

to serve dress a salad of beetroot, satsuma and tomato with lemon juice, place two re-heated koftas on top and cover with the chilli dressing.


Just use the base mix with gram flour added. I like a little smoked paprika in my mix. Cook as above.

Pea and mint tameyas

An Israeli variation. Add lots of peas and mint to the base mix and then add gram flour.

Onion Bhajis

One large onion
2 tablespoons of your favourite curry paste (not sauce)
A squeeze of lemon juice
A pinch of salt

Cut onion slices thinly. Add the curry paste, lemon juice and salt and allow to sit for an hour. Add enough gram flour to this mix so that the mix will fall from a spoon. Do not over-add or the bhajis will become too doughy.

Drop dessertspoonfuls of this mix into oil at 180C and cook until brown and crisp.

Sweet potato and carrot pakoras

Grate one sweet potato and two medium, or one large, carrots into a bowl. Add two tablespoons of thai red curry paste, preferably home-made, and mix. Squeeze in 30 ml of lime juice and a pinch of salt. Allow some time to stand. Add gram flour as before and cook as before.

Tamarind and raisin chutney.

In a blender put 300g raisins and cover with warm water. Blend. Add tamarind in stages because the type of product that you have will be watery or stiff, very sour or not so. Taste as you are going; you are looking for a ketchup consistency and the right blend of sweet and sour. You can use agave nectar or honey to sweeten if needed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

long overdue

like many of the library books that i borrow, this blog is long overdue. a couple of weeks ago i took the saturday off and went to see wolf parade in bristol. thanks must go to the doormen on the thekla (a boat come nightclub in the harbour area) who gave us the wrong starting time, resulting in us missing the first ten minutes. what a surprise then that 15 minutes into the gig that we saw, the lead singer was letting us know that this was their final number. obligatory chanting and pleading saw them come back for a further three songs but i would estimate that we saw 35 minutes of gig and that everyone who had not spoken to the bouncer had seen 50 minutes. when you have two albums, plus a new one, why limit yourself to 50 minutes when you're only doing four gigs in the UK anyway? we left feeling a little seasick (it sways) and cheated. of course we compounded this feeling by going in to clifton and visiting the albion. when i was a student in bristol, the albion was a little hole in the wall place and had a great atmosphere. nowadays it looks like cast-offs from footballer's wives and the prices match up to that quite well. bizarrely the toilets were disgusting. we left and went back to our hotel, hotel24seven, and this i can give a glowing review. there were no staff, no receptionist etc and everything is done over the web. the key codes that let us in, the key fob for the car park that was left in the room and, best of all, the comfy, very clean rooms with tea and coffee and a fridge. the rooms that we had had an adjoining courtyard and so we stayed up, outside, smoking and drinking late night tea.

the restaurant that weekend was quiet. on the thursday we had our worst night ever, since opening, one table of four. it probably beat the night that buzz came in to review, because that night there was only a table of two, but buzz were also a two and it felt better. that weekend it felt like i was on holiday, not working on saturday and leaving at 8.15 on thursday. the reason for this blog is so that i don't forget my vegan/coeliac shortbread recipe, so this is it. it was for our chocolate pots and you may want to leave out the spices.

75g dessicated coconut
100g doves farm plain white gluten free flour
50g rice flour
50g cornmeal/polenta
150g caster sugar
1 tsp chinese 5 spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g pure vegetable marg

put everything in a food processor, with a blade attachment. pulse to incorporate then put on high and let a dough form. once the dough has formed tip it onto a floured surface and bring together. split into 3 or 4 and roll out. i flattened mine with a spatula. cook in a circle, in biscuit shapes, however, at 160C in a fan oven for a minimum of 8 minutes. the more you cook, the crispier the final product.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the story behind the menu

Nostalgia eh. Well this menu has something of a nostalgic air to it. Not because we’ve done it before but because I want to give some credit to the people or dishes that inspired me to run down this cooking path.
Perhaps the oldest dish is the risotto. The story behind this dish comes from my days as a student at North Staffs Poly in the mid 1980s. I stopped eating meat in 1985 and for most of the next year lived almost exclusively on beans on toast, sometimes spiced with curry powder and enlivened with slivered almonds, or packet savoury rice, usually taken with six slices of bread. Then in 1985-6 a very good friend of mine, H, who had is own house (bought for £9,000, I believe) started a little cooking soiree for a few of the malnourished on our course. H, myself and rich day cooked up some bizarre treats, including unleavened pizzas (unforgettable for the wrong reasons) and risotto. The only problem was that it wasn’t really risotto because none of us had eaten one, we had only heard the name and rice and vegetables had to be risotto. Well this one will have mushrooms and butternut and sage and lemon thyme and will be delicious.

The next dish will have to be chilli. This is what got me through my years studying for a phd in Bristol. There was also a fair amount of alcohol and other substances as well but the chilli would provide the necessary goodness to allow me to get away with all the other stuff. I could eat this in massive quantities back then. I think we’ll do this with some Mexican cornbread and one or two other little things.
Staying with Bristol, whilst I was there I shared a flat with mozz, whose ability to drink the entire flat dry of alcohol never ceased to amaze. On many nights, and days, we would be joined for marathon drinking and smoking sessions by mad dog murray. We would watch an entire series of auf weidersehen pet and then get peckish and I would knock up a veggie curry with whatever was in the fridge. In honour of those days, the third dish will be mad dog and mozz’s ruby murray.

The final main is a dish that I used to cook for my father when he was going through the latter stages of pancreatic cancer. This was a horrendous illness and my father lost his appetite for most things but the one thing that we could get him to eat was a thai beef curry with plain rice. In honour of my dad, who died before we set up the restaurant, this is the last main.
The first starter we will call Sarah harding’s soup. Many years ago this one one of the first recipes that I was asked for. It was a guy fawkes night and we had 20 adults and children coming around to see the fireworks skewing towards the houses opposite. I was left with the task of coming up with food and decided on a leek and potato soup and a sweet potato, honey, lime and chilli soup. It was the latter for which the recipe was demanded.
The next starter would have to be dedicated to steve tricks. Steve is a larger than life Londoner with a, sounds like a cliché, heart of gold. Knowing that I was vegetarian steve sought out the recipe for his favourite veggie starter at the London restaurant, le petit max. This dish was imam bayeldi and has been a mainstay of our restaurant since we opened, even appearing and being sold, once, in the day. This starter will be steve tricks’ meze with lavash.
The last starter is pea and mint tameyas and is dedicated to paul gayler, to whom we have already dedicated an entire menu. Top chef. We’ll serve it with a smoked chilli and yoghurt sauce, to which a debt is owed to paul bloxham

The desserts have a more current explanation. Cy and celia have recently moved into a house with great quantities of pears and apples, jo pinder also gave us pears, as did Jamie and wendy, ably picked by iwan, so the first dessert is iwan’s ‘folk’ pear and apple crumble. The next is the sticky toffee and we dedicate this to all the vegans who inspired us to try this for the first time. Specifically to the group of anarchists who used to occupy the hairdressers opposite. The last dessert is crème brulee, pure and simple, and I’ll dedicate this to phil, who came to my house about 13 years ago and loved it even though I’d left it in the oven until it had curdled, but none of us knew how it was supposed to be. He is very much missed by us all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

taking a hammering

it's funny, the things you learn whilst cooking for an almost living; that when you're tired you'd rather do anything than write a blog, that you eat better when you're not cooking food and that hitting stuff can be therapeutic. this last few weeks we've had to hit the oven quite a lot. the problem is that it is old and was mis-treated by the previous owner. we had to give it some serious care and attention when we took it on; removing the best part of 5 kilos of grease, both hard and soft. the application of several helpings of moisturiser and a deep clean by a friend who is a gas fitter. however, even with all that care and attention, it still harbours one problem; every now and again the gas feed is disrupted. how, why, when, what for (i guess that's why again) we don't know but when it happens near service it can cause panic. once it happened in service and we had to work on two rings and a hot-plate, fortunately there was only about 20 in, so we managed. but, as the cooker gets older, the frequency of disruptions is increasing. last friday and last night it blew out altogether. the solution, hit it with a hammer. sometimes it works, sometimes not, but it helps. once i kicked it and it came back to life but the door hinge hasn't been the same since, so no more kicking.

on the subject of a kicking, last night was our quitest since the buzz review of 2008. we had one table of four and i left early (on the buzz night it was one paying table and the buzz people, who were not, although we made them pay for drinks and desserts i think). one day, i'll write down the maths of my theory of dining frequency but then again, i probably won't.

Recipe for watermelon and roasted pepper gazpacho.

watermelon, 400g

roasted red peppers, if buying jarred, then buy in oil not vinegar. 200g

couple of shallots or a mild onion

couple of cloves of garlic

veg stock, cold

white wine vinegar

salt and pepper and lemon juice and possibly sugar

blitz first four ingredients with enogh stock to get the consistency you require. in spain it would be thinner than i would serve it. season with the last ingredients to your taste. don't skimp on the vinegar. do you know what, with raosted beets this would make a good borscht technique.



Friday, August 6, 2010

oh pillow, where art thou?

i'm very attached to a couple of things, my family and my pillow. my pillow has traveled the world with me; when i went to canada to live in the early '90s, the pillow came, on every holiday the pillow comes. it is a special pillow. it is older than i, probably by some margin and is most likely host to millions of things that feed off my face each evening. it is a symbiotic relationship with which i am happy because that pillow delivers the most special gift, sleep. this holiday my wife and children are spending the majority of it in west wales and last weekend i went to join them. i packed some clothes and my pillow. on wednesday, two days ago, i came back, and you guessed it, the pillow did not. i searched the house for a suitable replacement and in the end had to make do. that night i felt as if i had not slept at all. the peculiar qualities of my pillow are that age has left it very hard, in the old style of feather pillows, and as a result it is also cold. the best replacement that i could find had neither of these characteristics. as a result yesterday went by in a blur.

and then......

i had spoken to my wife, whose friend was also caravanning and who was planning on coming home today, friday. i asked whether or not the pillow could be bagged and sent home so that i could sleep well before the wedding that we are catering on saturday. it was agreed. so what happened? the weather intervened. susannah came home early and when i opened the door and turned on the light of my otherwise empty house, i spied, lying on the stairs, a rhapsody in pink (yes a pink cover), my pillow. i was so excited i managed to watch the daily show before allowing the pillow to transport my to sleep.

the end.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

dog turds and to dos

this was a welcome busy weekend, following on from some very quiet, world cup evenings that saw us with minimum staffing. it was also an indication of how, when something is no longer there, you can miss something. dylan had gone, the bookings were back and tony and i had never attempted the menu, in its entirety, on our ownsome. the only night that we ahd done was the first saturday and that was very quiet. so thursday came around and we were left to our own devices on th pepperonata, the caponata and the sweet risotto. it was a little like a juggling act and that was made worse when a community-minded soul had let their dog defecate outside the door. as you may remember, it rained heavily and what was at first a dog turd became a slurry and alot of that came into the restaurant via the shoes of the customers. leanne was flapping, buckets were being filled, mops being dispatched and then discarded and orders never stopped coming. thursday night, sahttered and with the lingering smell of, well enough of that.

friday was also busy and was marred by one table. we try very hard to accommodate and if it was just about the money, we'd have shut long ago, so it usually spoils the night for us when we have one table in that is a little rude to the guys serving. if they don't like the food, i'll take that on the chin but rudeness is unacceptable and because it spoilt the night, and this was one table amongst a good few, and everyone else was really nice, i'll be exercising my right to refuse service in the future.

i was going to do a recipe but that's got me down again.

PS saturday was really nice

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Goodbye to Dylan and melanzane parmigiana

So this week we say goodbye to our first work experience student. The guy in question was Dylan Robson, after whom we named the menu, and who was a real help in the kitchen. He’s also a vegan, which, given that most of this menu is vegan, meant that he was a real help, understanding the need for vigilance in the kitchen. Unfortunately you have to be kitchen fit for this job and I think the toll started to be taken on Friday. Tuesday is our prep day, and that went well, but Thursday is when the hammer really goes down, 11 hours pretty much on your feet the whole time. I forget that I used to struggle with foot and calf issues when we first started and at first interpreted the leg-lifting as a new dance, but it was fatigue. So, world cup still having an effect on bookings, we gave him the night off on Saturday. To say thank you, here is the recipe for melanzane parmigiana.

Tomato sauce.

Sweat an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in plenty of olive oil. Once softened turn up the heat and when bubbling add a slosh of red wine vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of sugar (they should be about the same in volume). This is a gastrique and is normally cooked separately and then added, but who wants to wash all those pans. Once this has reduced but left the slight sweet-sour taste, add a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes or some passata. Cook out for a minimum of twenty minutes.

Aubergines: slice to about 0.75 cm and brush both sides with oil. Season and place in the oven at 190C on a rack to brown. If you want both sides brown, you’ll need to turn them over. If you feel very cooky today, then instead of roasting you can pat with flour, then cover with egg and fry in a little oil. Either way, allow to cool.

Mozzarella, vegan or otherwise, sliced, and plenty of it. Parmesan, vegan or otherwise, grated and plenty of it. My favourite herb for this is dried basil, but you can use fresh. (vegan parmesan, equal quantities of ground sesame seeds and nutritional yeast flakes)


In a nice oven proof dish, place a layer of tomato sauce in the bottom, cover with slices of aubergine (you can do this with courgette as well, especially if you’ve let a couple get too big), season, herb and then cover with mozzarella and parmesan. Keep layering until you’ve filled your dish, finishing with a layer of tomato and covered in cheese. Bake in the oven at about 170C until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted and coloured.
Dylan very kindly also brought us some vegan cheesecake to eat, which I am currently taking with my tea.

Cheers Dylan, thanks for your help and we hope you had fun and maybe learned a thing or two.



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

salad sandwich

just got back from the allotment, to where i have not been as often as i should. i think that i was due a phone call, much like the one that mervyn king gets when inflation is too high, telling me to get up there and get those weeds out. i was at my children's sports day first and the allotment is very close by so it was with great relief that i left the school grounds and got stuck into two hours of hard graft. two hours later it was with far greater relief that i got away, although i had to go back to get my glasses because i left them on the bin. the allotment was looking better, although two lettuce and eight radish had been lifted by me. most of those lettuce and four of the radish are now working their way through my body as i have just eaten them in what could have been the largest salad sandwich in history. accompanying the radish and lettuec was some cheese, four tomatoes and a whole avocado that had been in the fridge for a week. i cut it without much hope but to me great surprise it was still green, soft but still green. stuffed between two slices of wholemeal and with regular escapees hitting my plate, only to be brought to justice eventually, i scoffed the lot. it is this kind of impromptu food that i like best and the recipe that i am going to write is for the filling for our current filo offering.

this filling first saw light because i had all the ingredients in the house and fancied some pasta; it was the pasta sauce. but i don't like doing pasta at the restaurant, save for ravs, and so it had to fill a pie.

fry some onion until soft then add some diced courgette and mushroom and gently fry as well. once softened add a few cherry tomatoes, the zest and juice of one lemon, and some fresh chilli or chilli flakes and cook out. open a jar of artichoke hearts (i love these) and some fresh parsley and mint, chopped. this is great on pasta, sould be amazng with a touch of cream, would make a fantastic lasagne and does make a bloody good pie filling. (in the restaurant we cook everyting separately so that it's not too wet for the filo, you can always put it in a sieve to drain, unlike the jumblies)



Saturday, June 12, 2010

hooray for england

having just watched three of the six nations lose at rugby to southern hemisphere opposition, it is with much delight that i look forward to tonight's match in the world cup. i'm really not too bothered about who wins, my other eye opened up some years back so i lost the inherited antipathy for all things england, the reason for my appreciation is that we've only got three tables booked on a saturday night and things should be nice and easy and i'll be home early.

go england go.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Carolyn's cheesecake

This has been one of the undoubted winners of the menu, even being described as the best dessert a customer had ever eaten. it was suggested by carolyn, who fancied the combination of ginger and lemon. this is my basic cheesecake recipe and can be adapted to your desires to be savoury or sweet.

the basic recipe is 250g of quark and 150g of cream cheese. 3 medium free range, organic eggs. blitz this with a hand blender and ignore the bubbles (unless you're very fussy). to make the savoury style you can add in savoury stuff like blue cheese, mustard, herbs etc. to make the sweet we add melted white chocolate and cream (200g, 200ml) or for a simple version, the one i like best, a tin of condensed milk. this removes the need to blend the sugar and make sure it is dissolved.

so to your egg/cheese mix add one tin of condensed milk, the zest of a lemon and the juice of two to three. the ginger is the preserved stem ginger that we have blitzed to a puree. you could finely chop if you like biting on little bits. i add about three heaped teaspoons to the mix and then blend it all together.

for the base i make some coeliac biscuits because they cost heaps and their not hard to make. my basic recipe for this is equal quantities of butter and sugar, cream in a food processor, the same volume of ground nuts (hazelnuts are great for this) and about twice the volume of gluten free flour. i usually add some buckwheat of gram flour to a doves farm plain mix. stick this in the food processor and blend together. it will not come together so add water a little at a time until a dough forms. roll out and cut into biscuits, then cook in a pre-heated 180C oven until lightly browned. allow to cool then blitz to a crumb, add more butter and pack into the base of a 9" springform pan. cook at 180C until golden and firm. allow to cool, then cover the pan with a double layer of foil, up to the rim. pour your cheesecake mix over the base, put the pan in a roasting tray and pour in an inch of boiling water (into the tray not the pan). cook in a pre-heated, 140C, oven for about 30 minutes. you want the cake to be just set. allow to cool, then refrigerate for a few hours. cut with a warm clean knife.

next menu, the cheesecake belongs to ben, who suggested a dark chocolate and ginger.



Sunday, May 9, 2010

beating yourself up

yesterday i played golf prior to service. quite a while prior to service actually, we teed off at 10. i played pretty well but my putting, usually a handicap, was atrocious. after sinking a couple for par, i then three-putted 7 times through the rest of the round. ally that to some other rubbish and my chances had gone. the problem; i beat myself up about it and then can't come through the other side. it's the same with the food. the fesenjan was not right on thursday; it was difficult to plate and did not look good. we tried several variations, all rubbish. Tony suggested salad, i couldn't see it at first but when we tried it it made the dish. Tony didn't get to see the transformation because he's somewhere in scotland camping.

overall the menu has been well-recieved. when one of us is away, we tend to fall back on certain dishes, not duck being a favourite. the soup is beyond good and i'll divulge the secret in a moment and the casumziei spectacular. the problem with that is that there is only one way to go after, down. Jay has performed brilliantly in the execution of the risotto, the stir fry is cool, although it sholud be tom yum, not tom yam, and the curry is one of the best we do in my opinion.

the desserts are also working out well. the fool is great if you like ginger and rhubarb and you'd be mad if you didn't.

soup recipe

onion, sweated in oil. add a tablespoon of red curry paste and some curry leaves (about 12, fry two minutes. add two cubed sweet potato and sweat, stirring to stop sticking and adding a small amount of water if necessary. add stock and a tin of coconut milk and cook for five minutes. blend and enjoy.



Sunday, April 25, 2010

putting up some blinds

this weekend was quite busy so it was with great relief that i awoke this morning knowing that i had agreed to put up two sets of blinds. we've recently had the house re-modeled, resulting in a new bedroom for my daughter and blind-less windows in our bedroom. my lack of love for light resulted in the temporary measure of bin bags sellotaped to the window. i could have happily made the arrangement permanent but my wife could not, as evidenced by the blinds that she bought and the instructions to fit them that she left me with this weekend. so, sweating after an hour of five-a-side, i gave in and put them up.

the first pair went up pretty easily, save for the incomprehensible instructions that only made sense after several minutes of fumbling with bits of metal caused two of then to stick together. after carefully undoing them, making sure that i could re-trace my steps, i could understand the instructions. they flew up. the nice thing was that they could be screwed into the plastic around the window, so no nasty drilling. the second pair could not, so

down the stairs, get drill

down the stairs again to get vacuum cleaner

unto the bathroom to get the extension lead because i watched iron chef in the bath yesterday

plug in the vacuum cleaner and the extension lead

i've lost my chuck key for the drill so hand tighten the drill bit in place

mark out where the holes need to go with my pencil

get in position, drill in one hand, vacuum in the other, ready to collect the dust as i'm drilling (good tip)

forgot to turn on vacuum

get off chair and switch it on, no luck as i've not turned on switches at the wall.

turn on switches at the wall

back up ready to go, vacuum ready and whirring, press drill trigger(?). nothing

look down and see that it's not plugged in to the extension cable,

hold drill in down and bit falls out. bastard.

put bit in tighter and pug in. tighten again by taking the skin off my inner hand.

drill holes in correct place but looks like they may be a bit big for the supplied plugs. (good tip, get someone else to hold vacuum, otherwise the drill slips)

go downstairs to find some others and can only find one. could get away with it.

can't get away with it. screw has gone in, in the larger of the two holes with my plasplug but the supplied plug has now become a permanent fixture in the house, living, as it does, somewhere inside the cavity. double bastard.

back downstairs to search for another plug is in vain, however i do find some double-massive ones.

back upstairs to indulge in wiggle drilling as i don't have a bigger bit and my hand is really starting to smart.

first attempt is not a success. drop the plug. git.

more wiggling and success. plug is in. blinds are up and i'm off for a fag.

sorry, no food today. recipes will follow.

happy drilling


Monday, March 22, 2010

wild garlic soup and cabbage and lentils

as those of you who get the newsletter may know, my son is doing pica training on the computer at home which means that about 20 of the 26 keys are now covered in stickers. i've been typing two-fingered for twenty years, so know where most of the keys are, but am always in danger of smashing the screen up as i type rgrtr, instead of there. so i'll be putting a few more recipes up here and less in the newsletter until i find the spare keyboard which has been stored out of existence. i've been asked for the wild garlic soup recipe, on the next menu, so here it is.

this is a simple potato soup base.

an onion
some celery (not that necessary)
some cubed potato, about 3 or 4 decent sized.

sweat the onion and celery in olive oil until softened. add the potato and sweat on a low heat. i usually like to make my soupd this way, softening the veg by sweating rather than boiling as i feel that it helps with the final flavour. be careful that it doesn't catch, although the nicest leek and potato soup that i have ever eaten was one that had caught and was cooked by my mother-in-law. i tried to re-create it but can never quite burn/brown to the right degree, i always back out too soon and cannot get the smoky flavour i'm after.

anyway back to this recipe. once sweated add veg stock and washed wild garlic and blend. season to taste.

braised red cabbage.

this is an easy version. you can add other spices, star anise, cloves but the cinnamon works well on its own.

two onions, sliced
one large red cabbage
one decent stick of cinnamon
250 ml red wine
red wine vinegar and sugar to taste

sweat the onion and cinnamon in olive oil for a couple of minutes. add the cabbage and the wine and cook for five minutes to burn off the alcohol. add a good slosh of vinegar and some sugar and cover and cook for a couple of hours, tasting frequently. add more vinegar/sugar until you achieve your desired taste. i like mine on the tarter side of sweet.

braised puy lentils (can be chickpeas or any other legume that won't just break down)

sweat finely chopped onion, carrot and celery in olive oil with a teaspoon of cumin seeds and some chopped fresh rosemary and lemon thyme. once softened add 500 ml of red wine and cook off alcohol. add the lentils (500g) and some chopped apricots, raisins, and sun dried tomatoes, preferably in oil. in fact use the oil instead of the olive oil at the start. add stock to cover by about an inch and cook until the lentils are softened, anything between 30 mins and an hour, checking the liquid and stirring frequently. make a slurry of water and cornflour (10g say) and cook this out to thicken the sauce.

serve with anything. we've done it with koftas, pancakes and pies.



Sunday, March 14, 2010

red pepper ketchup and some no shows

the bane of every restaurant is the no-show. it's irksome when you can't fill the restaurant but more so when you've had to turn down 5 tables the same night. the issue that we face is, what do you do? ring the number that made the booking, that always brings to mind david foster wallace, who suggested that we try to see what the issue could be from the other side. god forbid an emergency of some sort, followed by a restaurant pursuing a booking. that said, the four cars that overtook me in a a 300 mph zone in saint nicholas at about 4.30 yesterday, it couldn't all have been an emergency, so you're most probably all a***holes. sorry mister wallace.

to the recipe. last week i gave the recipe for the polenta, so this week the ketchup. this will make quite alot.

1 jar of roasted peppers in vinegar, i like the lidl variety.
1 large onion
a couple of cloves of garlic
250g tomatoes
some ground ginger, cumin and coriander to taste
sugar to taste.

the nice thing about this is that the vinegar is already there, you create with this as your canvas, so to speak (ludicrously).

sweat the onion and garlic in some oil, add the tomatoes and cook out a little. add the peppers and vinegar and the seasonings, tasting as you do. cook until everything has broken down and reduced. you should have a mix, that when blended, will be thick, like a ketchup. blend and bottle while still hot.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

menu review and polenta recipe

sometimes the best of times are also the worst of times. that would certainly hold true for this menu. after a few menus of minimal stress, we decided on one that would set the adrenaline free. we certainly did that. the menu started, as always with a stressful thursday, made more so by a crash and the sight of the chinese strainer dropping from its hook, comically catching the chocolate sauce and catapulting said sauce over the ravioli that i had just completed. several deep breaths and i blood was back to something approaching normal temperature. i had also planned on printing the menus at the restaurant but that was thwarted by a broken printer cartridge; it was now, 19:10 and customers, so happily those we can count as friends, were already seated. M then redeemed herself by writing them, old-style, and photocopying them in the internet cafe, for it was by her hand that the strainer did fall. there then followed a rather hectic two hours, during which L made fun of the speed of service.

Friday was comparatively mundane, although we were very busy and there was a possibility of implosion. i really enjoyed it because when it doesn't go tits up, if you'll forgive the vernacular, you do get that sense of fulfillment. By saturday we had relented and agreed that we would write the orders down. it went like clockwork.

the feed back on this menu has been pretty good. we've spiced up the oxtail and thickened the sauce on the back of feedback but that is pretty much it. the ash-e-reshteh has been popular and also well reviewed but we follow the menu that is pretty much all over the web, so you can get that yourselves, the recipe that i have been asked for is the polenta fries, so here it is.

you need

polenta, quick cook is easiest but the end product is probably not quite as good.
veg stock
lots of soft herbs, parsley, coriander, basil, mint etc.

cool the polenta, as per instructions, with the stock. the stronger the stock, the stronger the taste. season with salt and lots of pepper. once the polenta is cooked add the herbs then quickly spread out on a baking pan. allow to cool and set.

once it is properly set, cut into fries and shallow fry, or into wedges and griddle. serve with red pepper ketchup. (recipe in next newsletter) you can de-veganise the dish by cheesing up the mix during the cooking of the polenta, something strong works best.



Monday, February 8, 2010

Oh my god, what was that

the weekend went by in a flash and i've just got time, between classes, to write my menu review. they say bad things come in three's (' unnecessary?) so i must be due one. first a coriander problem, then a hair (bristle?) in the swedish glace ice cream and next what. swedish glace shall be hearing from us because it looked like something industrial. the lady in question took it in great spirit and was even brave enough to take another sticky toffee. thanks to dave and the gang for being so understanding.

the menu was a little hit and miss. the soup, lovely but only perfected on night two, the not duck rolls have got to be up there with the best. maybe not as intricate as some of the dishes but the combination with the very plummy szechuan sauce was excellent. my end of night dish of choice. the satay sauce was great, the skewers not so on the first night. i had an idea that some lovely roasted beetroot would marry up well with the thai-ish flavour of the sauce. i was wrong and the red pepper got lost too. that said we upped the tofu content and marinated in tamari and sweet chilli, so by night two they were much better. i also made a lovely lime dressing for the crunchy salad.

very pleased with all the mains. we got our mojo back on the tagine, making a nice complex sauce for the veg, tried wholegrain cous cous, which could be a little dry, and the beetroot hummous is a keeper. laksa sold less well but the flavour is good. i've kept the heat down so if you like it hot you'd better ask.

on the desserts, i had a nightmare with the vegan/coeliac brandy snaps and we had to resort to shop-bought for a while but those are now good and the prunes are fantastic. withouit doubt my favourite and more customers were agreeing this time beacuse last time they were on they sold like cold cakes.

all in all, we're pretty happy, i'm in on thursday, then off for two weekends to ski my legs off in the freezing french alps.

happy eating


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

some pre-prep and brill satay recipe

today we entered into pre-prep for the next menu. just like the last menu it puts substance over style, so don't expect the artistic flourish but, rather, expect dishes that taste beautiful. i've been ordered by the kitchen brigade to write this recipe down, do this is the recipe for my satay sauce.

Start by sauteeing onions, once soft add red curry paste. we use our own for flavour and a shop-bought one for heat. cook out the paste, the ingredients are raw. next add some tamarind paste, this gives the sourness, some rice wine vinegar and some tamari. soy is cheaper but contains wheat and for this we need gluten-free. add some veg stock so that it doesn't stick and a dash of lime juice. cook a while. now add palm sugar or jaggery to balance out the acid element. i like it on the sweeter side of sour.

finally toast some peanuts and add these, then blend and use it to coat whatever you want.

cheers and a beer (at least i'm having one, we have no heating so i feel like i need it, i'm typing this in ski gloves)


Monday, January 18, 2010

that picture tells a lie just as a song can hide a whim

a 1986 concert with martin, a dunn (gary?) and i, with nice hair.

not even i could spoil it

last evening represented our first foray into the live music business. the story is long but i'll shorten what i can. during my salad days i, along with several of my friends, was a big fan of martin stevenson and the daintees. i tried to see them whenever i could, once at keele, photo could be attached (great hair), several times in manchester, most notably the first time kinnock lost, and finally in bristol. circa 1992. i then fell out of love with music, save for opera, and lost track of anything else until we opened the restaurant. who would have thought that two and a bit years in i would have booked one of my favourite performers to play at our restaurant (and i mean ours to include the two people who read this as well as us) because i couldn't get to newport the night before.

the night went very well, thanks in most part to martin's humour and grace and the efforts of mark, who saved the night. myself (t f***whit esq) haf omitted to find out whether martin would be coming amp in hand, so when he turned up and 6.40 sans amplifier, we had a rather hectic 40 minutes. i headed off to see a mate and pick one up (thank you justin) but by the time i'd got back the crisis was over and a small pa system had been installed. i can't thank everyone enough for coming and i hope you all had a great time. here is a recipe.

it's for the pineapple torte tatin but any fruit will do.

one ripe pineapple, cored and cut into 8 rings (less would do if you wnat more cake)

100g vegan marg
130g golden syrup
70g black treacle
150ml soy milk
4" of banana

take first 4 ingredients, put them in a pan and melt together. once completely melted, break up the banana and add to the wet ingredients. blitz with a hand blender.

225g self raising flour
75g soft brown sugar
1 tsp bicarb

use a lined tray and sprinkle on a layer of demerara sugar. place the pineapple rings on top. stir the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients whilst hot. (this gets the bicarb going). mix together to form a cake batter and cover the pineapple rings.

place in the oven, which i forgot to say you should have pre-heated to 160C, for 15-20 mins. test by feel, if it's springy, it's ready. you may need to adjust the cooking time to reflect the depth of the pan you use. we use something flat and 20 minutes is ample.

happy cooking