13/01/2016

Halloumi & Leek Bread Pudding

Bread pudding as I've always known it is a great big bowl of spiced, fruited and sugared bread, all smooshed and squished together with milk until it's one homogenous mass, and then baked until it becomes a slab of darkly sweet perfection. A brilliant and thrifty way to use up stale or old bread and probably a cheap way to fill the kids up when they got in from school. I adore it, and am quite protective of it. (I've long felt that Bread and Butter Pudding was a bit of an imposter, the smaller, more delicate sister of the big, comforting and homely eldest.)

Then last week, someone mentioned a savoury bread pudding, a leek and cheese one to be precise. It started with Thomas Keller, went via Smitten Kitchen, and then ended up with me.

I admit I wasn't sure about it, but it would have been a shame to pass the idea by, especially as I'd bought some terrific leeks at our wonderful local farm shop and also had some rye bread to use up. (I'd used a Lidl bread mix, and it was extremely good.)

I read the recipe and, as is my wont, tweaked it when I actually came to making it. I believe that's also known as 'winging it when you don't have the right amounts of anything'...

I'd put dried mint in with the buttered leeks, because it's very tasty, and then thought hang on...halloumi goes well with mint, I wonder if I've got any?

I did. Of course I did. This is me, after all.

2 leeks, cleaned and chopped very finely
Approx. 250g cubed rye bread (2 large handfuls, really)
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs dried mint
3 eggs
1/2 cup double cream, divided
1/4 cup milk
200g halloumi, grated
100g cheddar or Red Leicester, grated
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

Sprinkle the bread cubes with olive oil and mix well.

Spread them out on a tray and bake until they start to go golden and crunchy.



While they are cooking, fry the leeks in butter and oil until they are softened and starting to caramelise.



Take the bread cubes out of the oven, and allow to cool.

Mix the mint in with the leeks, fry for a few minutes and then leave to cool.

Grate the cheeses, and divide them in half.

Put the cooled bread in a bowl, add in the cheeses and the leeks and mix really well.



Beat TWO of the eggs with half of the cream, the milk and nutmeg.

Line the bottom of a 2lb loaf mould with half the leftover cheese, spoon in the cheese/bread mixture and press down.

Beat the remaining egg with the remaining cream, and a touch of salt, then pour that over the bread and press it down so that all the cubes have some of the liquid on them.

Top with the rest of the cheese.


Bake in a 170C oven for 45-50 minutes, until the whole thing is browned and bubbling.

Leave it to cool until you try and slice it!





Well you try having something coated in crisped bubbly cheese sitting in front of you, all warm and luscious...

10/01/2016

My First Christmas Cake

Yes. I know. How can I have been alive for all of my considerable years and not made a Christmas Cake? To be honest, I'm not sure, but I hadn't. I have now, but let's just say it took me a long time to get around to it.

I've made cakes for Christmas, yes. But not one of those soak the fruit, cook for four hours, feed religiously and then decorate to within an inch of its life ones. My Nan was so good at hers, I had no need, and then nobody seemed to like it - I thought - and I can't have alcohol anyway so I just didn't bother.

To be honest, I didn't think I liked it either but then I learned of the marvellous Northern tradition of eating cheese with fruitcake, and I was sold. 

Thank you James Herriot and past me who stayed up late, reading until after midnight on school nights.

This year, I had a long Christmas holiday off work, and was at home in the UK, so I got around to cooking/making a fair few things that I'd wanted to. Nigella's mini Christmas Puddinis were first, and they made short work of some shop bought Christmas pudding. (I still do not like traditional Christmas Pud. I'm sorry Delia.) I've made two batches of them so far, and everyone loved them. I used icing pens to decorate them, not chopped glacé fruit, as it was far easier.

In a fit of retro madness, I'd ordered some traffic light glacé cherries from Wilton's Wholefoods (I highly recommend them by the way) and also some whole glacé peel, because I really dislike the chopped mixed peel you get in the shops, which seems to be made up of tiny cubes of the bitterest things known to man.



Look how beautiful this is! You could eat it as candy, it's that good.


By way of discussions about various other things, I discovered that Husband does indeed like Christmas Cake. "The kind with marzipan and icing?!" so that decided me. 
I knew I'd left it rather late, but then I figured that as I wasn't going to be feeding the cake, it would be fine.

Onward!

Non Boozy Fruit Soak
750g sultanas
150g glacé cherries, some whole, some chopped
50g glacé peels, finely chopped
Enough cold strong black tea to cover the fruit
3 cinnamon sticks
3 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla


I left that all to absorb overnight. It hadn't completely absorbed by the next day, so I simmered it on a low heat until most of the liquid had gone, but I did need to drain the last bit off.

The cake recipe itself I got from The Pink Whisk. I'd faffed and floofled about this for ages, looking up recipes by Delia, then Mary Berry until I'd gotten myself all confused, so eventually I shook myself by the mental shoulders and said "IT'S JUST A CAKE WITH EXTRA FRUIT, GET ON WITH IT."

This post made everything clear, and simple. Oh it was like heaven smiled on me when I found it.

I had enough mixture for one large cake (8" x 4" tin) and one small one (4.5" x 2").

225g salted butter, softened

110g light muscovado sugar

115g dark muscovado sugar

2 tbsps black treacle

5 eggs, large

285g plain flour

3 tsp mixed spice

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Taken from The Pink Whisk site:

Make sure your tin is deep sided (3″ deep), a shallow tin won’t do the trick here!

Be sure of your oven temperature, a long slow bake is what is called for to stop the cake from drying out too much and baking evenly.
(I bought an oven thermometer, as my oven is...special.)

Position your cake on a shelf about 1/3rd of the way up from the base of the oven.

Keep an eye on the baking – start checking your cake for doneness from 2 and a half hours in.  Insert a skewer in the centre and it should come out clean when it’s completely cooked through.  If your oven temp is any different to 110c then it may be done sooner, but it may also take longer if your oven runs cool.  You need to employ your cake testing skills!

When it comes to feeding the baked cake, you can miss this out completely if you would rather, wrap the cake well as described and set aside to mature.  The flavours of the cake still intensify and the fruit in the cake will soften and be delicious.

If you would rather you can feed with apple juice or tea for a non-alcoholic cake.

If you don’t have a tin big enough to store your cake it will be fine wrapped well with baking paper and foil alone.

Preheat the oven to 110c (fan)/130c/Gas Mark 1.

Cream together the butter and sugars until they’re light and fluffy.

Add the treacle and beat it in well.

Now for the eggs, add them one at a time working them into the creamed mixture before adding the next.

In goes the flour and mixed spice and a last mix up.

Now there’s the base for the cake.

Take your fruit and fish out the cinnamon stick.

Add the fruit (no don’t eat it!) to the cake.

And now a last stir up!  Cake mixture done!




Time for the tins – line the base and the sides of a 8″ round, deep tin (at least 3″ deep”).  At this lower temp you don’t need to wrap around the outside of the tin with newspaper to protect the sides.

Fill with your cake mixture 



and bake it in the oven for 3hrs 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin.

You have no idea how accomplished I felt just because I managed to line one cake tin. The smaller one just got sprayed with cake release spray, and floured.

And here they are! Oh the smell as they were baking was lovely. Christmas filled my house.


I like how the slow baking time meant that the cherries on the small cake stayed on top. Perfect!


Once the large cake had completely cooled, Tex kneaded the icing and the marzipan for me, and rolled them out while I brushed the cake all over with lovely sticky ginger jam.

I went for the minimalist approach to decoration.


I do like how this one looks like it's in the moonlight. What? Yes. I am five. That there is a Puddini.


And joy! Retro glacé cherry shot! I baked this on the 24th, and we cut the cake on the 28th, having found stomach room.


I finally got my wish, and had my own cake with cheese. It was perfect. The cheese is Wensleydale with Apple & Fig, and was just the thing to go with the rich cake.


The cake has kept extremely well. I will say that the ginger jam has started to melt the marzipan, but everyone has liked that slightly more squidgy texture. We do still have some left, but not for too much longer!

Roll on Christmas 2016!


02/01/2016

Persimmons Everywhere

My American friends have spoken about persimmons for as long as have known them. I'd always wondered how Mr Gube's Persimmon Pudding would taste - not really knowing what a persimmon was - but sadly I think the recipe died with him. 

I never did get around to finding out what they were until recently when I was asked if I'd like to give them a try, so I said a definite yes.

They are really quite pretty. The ones I had were firm fleshed, so I assume they were the Fuyu variety. They certainly went down well at the office! The texture of these ones was a cross between an apricot and a pear, and the flavour was very fresh, slightly floral, but almost like a mango/apple cross.



I had three left to use up, so when I saw this recipe for a spiced squash cake, I felt that the persimmon would work perfectly. http://www.thepersianfusion.com/?p=744

Off I went.

The fruit grated easily.


250 g grated persimmon

300 g sugar (I used half demerara, half golden caster)

300 ml olive oil (half mild, half extra virgin)

4 medium eggs

230 g plain flour

1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon (yes, tablespoon)

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

120 g oat or wheat bran

40 g shelled unsalted pistachios, chopped

Line the bottom of a 25 cm cake tin with baking paper (springform tin is best). No need to oil. (I used a rectangular tin, as I had no round tins)

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

Put flour, oatbran, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and mix well with a whisk or fork.

Put the sugar in another bowl and add the olive oil. Beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until sugar is completely dissolved (about three minutes).

Add the eggs to the sugar one by one and beat about a minute on medium speed after adding each egg.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat on low speed to incorporate. Add the rest of the flour mix in two batches and beat to incorporate. Then beat the batter for 2 minutes on low speed.

Add all of the grated fruit to the batter and mix well.

Pour the batter into the lined cake tin. Sprinkle the chopped pistachio on the batter.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and a toothpick or cake taster inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for ten minutes.

Put a platter or board on top of the tin and invert the cake on the platter. Peel off the baking paper and turn the cake out on a cooling rack so the pistachios are on top. Let cool completely.












It keeps incredibly well. I've still got some from when I made this before Christmas, and it's still moist and tender. I had some last night topped with rose scented Greek yoghurt and honey.


The last persimmon got chopped and and stewed down with cinnamon, butter and brown sugar. It made a gorgeous topping for porridge.


Thank you to Maryam for the original recipe!

22/12/2015

Microwave Christmas Pudding

Yep! Microwave. I thought I'd lost this, but just dug it out again. :)

We made this last year at my Mum's in Cyprus, and as we were on the watch for powercuts, it had to be fast. It turns out that this is really, really good. Light and tender on the 1st and 2nd days, but on the 3rd day it had sort of solidified, so we called it fruit cake and ate the rest of it with cream.


200ml of water

100ml Kommandaria wine or spiced rum or apricot brandy

450g mix of dried fruits – Sultanas (whole), chopped apricots, figs, dates and/or prunes
(200g of the fruit should be sultanas and rest made up of approximately equal parts the other fruits.
We used apricots, dates and cherries)

225g butter

250g of soft brown sugar or dark muscovado, your choice

½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 tablespoons of mixed spice

Simmer the above all together in large pan till fat and sugar is dissolved (don’t let it go beyond melted – you are not trying to cook it just melt it all).

I let it sit until it had cooled as it plumps the fruits up nicely.

Dry ingredients

250g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

Sieve dry ingredients Into a large bowl, mix…

Beat 2 eggs into the cooled fruit and liquid.

Mix wet and dry ingredients well.

Put into suitably sized, well buttered microwaveable dish.

We used a plastic pudding bowl but the original author used glass.

Place in microwave.

Cooking times.
900 watts for 8 minutes - Check cooked in centre with skewer – if not done keep adding 2 mins until the skewer comes out clean.

We have an 800 watt microwave and it was 10 minutes altogether.

We tipped it out onto a plate and there was a tiny bit at the bottom that hadn't cooked, so we stuck it back in for a minute.

You can eat it hot or cold, with breakfast or after dinner as a pudding….


13/12/2015

Belly porchetta, with Christmas flavours

First, apologies if things look slightly out of kilter for a while. Blogger in their wisdom have been making changes, and LiveWriter, which I use to compose and publish posts, will not talk to Blogger any more. A fix is being worked on, but will not be available until next year.

We went out for a work Christmas lunch recently, and went to Jamie’s Italian. Two of us chose the porchetta, and it was very nice, but way too heavy on the black pepper for my tastes. The pepper and the lemon overpowered everything a bit, so I wondered if I could make it myself.

This weekend I was just going to use up what was in the freezer, but then I went to the butcher just to say hi and saw the pork belly.

Sunk.

I had prosciutto in the fridge that needed to be used up, and lots of clementines starting to look sad. I also had a packet of ready roasted chestnuts from the local Turkish shop, that I was dying to try.
Roasted belly pork and the chance to use up lots of bits and pieces? Definitely.
I asked the butcher to debone the belly, and score the skin, and I took the bones as well.


1 piece deboned pork belly, approx. 2-3lb in weight

1 pouch of ready cooked chestnuts

6-8 slices of prosciutto

Zest of 2 clementines and 1 lemon

1 tbs fennel seeds

1 tsp sea salt flakes

2 cloves garlic

olive oil

Oven 170C fan

Toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan until they darken a little, then grind in a spice grinder with the sea salt. Bingo, fennel salt for all your porky needs.

Mash the chestnuts with some olive oil and the zest of 1 clementine.

Grate in 2 cloves of garlic to it, and mix very well.

Lay the pork out flat, skin side down.

Sprinkle with a little fennel salt.

Lay the prosciutto slices on top, tucking them into any crevices, and add some orange and lemon zest.
Smooth the chestnut mixture all across the prosciutto.



Grate over the lemon and the remaining clementine, and sprinkle more fennel salt. I had more clementine than lemon, and I think that worked well.




Roll the pork up, starting at the thicker end, then tie inexpertly with string.



Rub olive oil into the skin, then add some more fennel salt, rubbing it all over the skin and getting it into the cracks.

Place the rib bones into a roasting pan, sprinkle some fennel salt on to them and drizzle some olive oil so that they don’t stick to the pan. You want to eat them later!

Rest the rolled pork on top.

Roast for around 2 hours.

Test the internal temperature at 1 and 2 hours. (It needs to get up to 71C, so that will depend on how big your piece of meat is. My meat thermometer has turned into a bit of a godsend, I have to say.)
When the roast reached the correct internal temperature, I switched the oven to the grill setting, in order to crisp up the skin. That took about 5-10 minutes and possibly created a little smoke. [ahem]

Let it rest for at least 15 minutes still sat on the bones to let it relax a bit. Made it easier to get the string off too.



The prosciutto had crisped up inside, so it was a bit resistant to being carved, but I got a slice off in the end, and a really sticky, caramelised rib to have with it too. I served mine with roasted Jerusalem artichokes and honey glazed baby beetroots.



All in all, I call this a big success. The clementine zest works extremely well with the chestnuts and the fennel, and both work with the sweet meat. I’ll definitely do this again, and I am going to make sure to go back to the Turkish shop for more chestnuts. So much easier to buy them that way.

I think a bigger version of this would make quite an impressive centrepiece. Or a lot of leftovers, which is no bad thing.

06/12/2015

Christmas: Kourabiedes, or Greek Butter Cookies

I have a cookbook. (Nobody is surprised at this.)

I have 2 copies of the same cookbook, because the first one fell apart.

My Mum used it to learn to cook Greek food for my Dad after they got married, then I found it, and started reading it. It had a cover, back then. One of those 1970s brown ones, all earnest and lentilly.

The back pages came off, then the front cover, and then the book itself started to disintegrate. I put it away on the bookshelf, and it survived 2 house moves, probably by staying hidden at the back of the shelf, sheltered by Delia and Nigella.

I found it again when I needed a recipe for tahini cake. It had the recipe alright but there was a small drawback.

image

Time to see if I could find another copy. Thankfully the wonder that is Abe Books came to my rescue. When it turned up, the cover was a bit of a surprise!

image

But it’s the same book alright. So tahini cake was made. (Write up on that soon.)

My next favourite recipe is the one for Greek Christmas Cookies. We have them at weddings too. Essentially a very buttery shortbread with icing sugar and brandy. LOTS of icing sugar. Sometimes we add almonds, or pistachios too. I’ve had them with a cinnamon walnut mix in the middle, and even rose Turkish delight, which melts to a beautifully soft centre.

The original recipe calls for unsalted butter, bicarb and no added salt, but to my mind that makes everything too sugary and sweet, and possibly a little bland, so I use salted butter (grass fed for preference), and no bicarb as I hate the taste.

This time I wanted them plain and simple. I only had an evening in which to bake, as I needed to take something along to Thane Prince’s cookbook club the next day, and I had all of the ingredients in.

Off I went! Once I’d sorted out the cup measurements. Handy guide here! http://www.butterbaking.com/conversions/

The recipe called for a moderate oven *rolls eyes* so here’s a useful table:

image

I set my not terribly accurate oven dial to about 165C fan.

Kourabiedes

1 cup soft salted butter (it worked out to 225g)

1 cup icing sugar (I just used my American measuring cup for this one)

1 egg yolk (that meant I got to make meringues later)

1 tbs brandy (I used apricot brandy but you can use orange juice)

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

1 tsp orange flower water

3 cups plain flour

(You can also add in 1/2 cup blanched and very finely chopped almonds)

1lb icing sugar to dredge (I DID NOT USE THIS MUCH. I don’t think they need it.)

Whisk butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy.

Mix in the egg yolk and brandy, then add the sifted flour a cup at a time and mix it all in.

Bring it together as much as you can then tip out onto a work surface and knead well until the dough is smooth. This is a beautiful dough, very easy to work with. Too easy to eat, if truth be told…

If it’s too soft for shaping, add a little more flour.

The book says to shape into balls, the size of a small egg, but I made mine smaller, maybe the size of a walnut. Don’t worry at all about perfection, make them any shape you want!

Place on a lined baking tray about an inch apart, as they do spread a little.

I pressed each one down with the back of a fork, because I like the pattern, and the ridges hold some icing sugar.

Bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes.

They will spread a little, puff slightly and then gradually turn lightly golden.

You are then supposed to roll the warm cookies in that 1lb of icing sugar, but I just put them in a box, and sprinkled maybe a cup of it in. It did stick to the cookies, and in some cases it will form a soft buttery layer on top. THIS IS FINE. It is also delicious.

image

They keep quite well in an airtight box, if you can stop yourself eating them all at once.

If you do want to sneak one, here’s a tip; don’t wear all black.

05/12/2015

A good day

Not strictly a food post, or a recipe post. But a post nonetheless.

It's been a hard week, and the planes taking off from Cyprus to bomb the oil fields was just the last straw.

Facebook is full of people talk talk talking non-stop about the bombings, the politics, analysing over and over again but to what end? All it did was bang and bruise my heart more and more until, combined with the usual job wibbles (being contract'll do that to you), I was in a state of low grade panic all the time. My Mum's in Cyprus, people I call family are on the Syrian/Turkish border.

My Facebook has now been deactivated for a while. My brain needs a break.

Mum sent me a message yesterday saying

We have had no warnings so don't panic and don't read the news. We have masses of Turkish army around us. If any retaliation occurs it would probably be the British bases, 2 hours away.

I sat at work and read that, with tears rolling down my face, so sad that she even had to be saying things like that in this day and age but it made the panic die down a bit.

She and my 'sis' called me today, so I could hear their voices. They then told me just how many troops were there. 55000 at least. She told me the location of the army bases. There are THREE within a mile of her house, and I have never, ever seen anything of them, not even a truck! What are they, 55000 ninjas??


Anyhow. After all that, hearing that Nigel Slater was going to be doing a book signing in Leadenhall Street market made me decide on the spur of the moment to take today off, and go. I don't usually do short notice days off, but...you only live once, right?

Today dawned sunny and clear. Perfect.

I had a leisurely breakfast, put on my new 2 sizes smaller skirt (I've lost about a stone and a half since mid August), did my make up for the first time in a year, and headed out, feeling rather Nigella.

I wanted to take a present for this kind man that I have been talking to on Twitter, and email, since 2008. Someone who has brought me comfort, and a friendly voice, through some dark times and hours.

So I took what seemed appropriate.

1 jar of lovely olive leaf tea.
1 individually boxed homemade Greek Christmas butter cookie.

I included a note.

I wrote instructions on how to brew the tea, added "inhale the gently scented steam, sip slowly, and then relax." (I think, I can’t remember the exact words) put a snow scene on too, inspired by his recent trip to Norway, then tucked it around the inside of the jar.

snow

I hope he likes it.

He's so NICE. I think he recognised me as I walked up to the table, because he smiled and then said "Hellooo..." in that way he does, signed my book, and then when I plucked up the courage (now or never woman) to ask if I could have a hug, said "Oh I think so", got to his feet and hung on briefly.

Mission achieved! He thanked me for managing to make it to the signing. He thanked me...bless him.

I have altered my Instagram profile from ‘aims to hug Nigel Slater’ to ‘Finally hugged Nigel Slater.’

Leadenhall in the sun. It really did look gorgeous in there.

image

I wandered around, coat off as it was so warm, bought lovely discounted things from the fabulous butcher, then found a café so I could sit and smile to myself.

image

I even got ripped off by a Big Issue ‘seller’ because I wasn’t concentrating, but you know? Good luck to the man. A fiver to him might actually be worth something, and if not, then it’s only a fiver, and I  laughed out loud at the sheer cheek of the man as he walked off with the magazine I’d just paid double for…

He may not read this, and may not say even if he does, but for Nigel, thank you. Thank you for being a constant, and kind presence across the years, making time for a fangirl such as I.

This morning you made me feel utterly special.

To you and yours, sir.

29/11/2015

Albert’s Table: a revisit

They say never go back, but when it comes to excellent restaurants I see no reason not to revisit again and again.

Once such place is Albert’s Table, in South Croydon. I was first alerted to them by a Jay Rayner column, so we visited back in September 2011. We’ve been a fair few times since, and at the end of a rainy Saturday in November, we went again. Because we could.

Flower

I know people are rather disparaging about Croydon, but there really is no need. It is multicultural, with good bits and bad bits, just like any other town. South End – or Restaurant Row as it is known – isn’t pretty, and lots of places there have a high turnover, but you know that the ones that manage to stay are very good. They have to be.

Albert’s Table opened in 2008, and they are still going strong. The owner and head chef is Joby Wells, grandson of the restaurant’s namesake. You can have a look at him cooking on their website. The one of him cooking steak just makes me crave some bread to soak up all the buttery juices.

To quote Inside Croydon

“Chef and owner Joby Wells didn’t always want to be a chef. After high school he went to university, graduating in mechanical engineering. It was while studying he worked as a commis chef in the kitchens of the halls of residence, and it was here that he realised what he wanted to do.

He started working in some of the best kitchens that London had to offer, including the Oxo Tower and La Trompette. After seven years in a high-pressure cooking environment, Wells decided that the time was right to strike out on his own.”

I have to say that I am very glad he did.

The cooking celebrates fresh, local British produce, and the menu is seasonal. I like going in to see what’s new on the menu, and find out what vegetable is going to feature this time. You do not expect to get Jerusalem artichokes and salsify in South Croydon, but perhaps we should.

It remains a calm and quiet restaurant. It doesn’t have hushed tones, or a stilted atmosphere, far from it, but it just feels like the town outside has been firmly left behind.

Restaurant

The staff is welcoming, and well trained, but not intrusive. None of this hovering around, asking if you are alright every few minutes. There will be a subtle refilling of your water glass, or a quiet suggestion to maybe try a little butter on the complimentary gougeres (we did) but that’s it. I keep saying that I really need to learn how to make those at home.

Gougeres

 

Fresh bread

There is always indecision about the menu. I used to be able to decide by choosing things that I would never cook at home, but as I have become far more adventurous in my cooking, I have rather been hoist by my own petard. Oh calamity.

Eventually we managed to choose. S chose more quickly than I, so the lovely waitress, Laura, had to come back again, but eventually we got there.

Look at this.

STARTERS

Cornish Lobster & brandy Soufflé (+£5)

Short crust tart of Dorset crab, rouille dressing and fine leaves

Poached wood pigeon with mountain lentils, red wine and shaved chestnuts

Roast onion, Kernel ale & ham hock broth, with a warm grain mustard brioche

Escabeche of Cornish mackerel with beetroot puree, fresh basil and poached quail eggs

Tortellini of truffle potato, and shaved Wiltshire truffle, and Mornay sauce (+£5)

Difficult to choose!

We both decided to try the Lobster Soufflé to start, because we could. Lobster is something I definitely don’t cook at home. On the one hand, someone else can have all the faff, but I also have a contact allergy to fish/crustaceans, so I’ll just give that a miss.

Souffle

The soufflé was so very good. Piping hot, so I let some of the steam out, and with a good crust at the edges. There was a nice contrast between the fluffy and creamy interior, and the crispier outer edges. 

Inside the souffle

Chunks of lobster were all the way through, suspended in the egg mixture. I will admit I do not like things that are too ‘eggy’ but this was just right.

Then came the mains. I had a really hard time choosing from these. I just didn’t want to miss out on anything.

MAIN COURSES

Pheasant; roast breast & cannelloni of leg, with red cabbage, garlic cream, and roast parsnip

Loin of aged Hereford beef, with a little mushroom and tarragon pie, char-grilled leeks and red wine sauce (+£5)
(If you prefer your beef well done, we recommend our eight-hour braise of feather blade)

Roast haunch of Knole Park venison (served pink) with chanterelle mushrooms, root vegetables and crisp suet, venison & chicken liver dumplings
Romney Marsh lamb; Glazed shoulder & roast rack of with fried polenta, Jerusalem artichoke, scorched onion and buttered kale

Atlantic cod, with red wine onions, butter roast salsify and brandade croquette

Fish of the day with mashed potatoes, wilted spinach, parsley, caper & lemon relish and a chilli and anchovy oil

Roasted Jerusalem artichokes, scorched onions & grilled leeks, with hazelnut and caper scones, and red wine

I chose the Hereford beef, and S chose the venison. Then next door’s dinner came to their table, and the lamb looked oh so very good. Yes, I am well aware that these are very definitely first world problems.

It was the mushroom and tarragon pie that swung me, though the Jerusalem artichokes did put up a struggle, winking at me with their windy ways, but the fungi won. It’s something I never have at home due to husband being allergic, so it does tend to call out to me on a menu.

What can I say. Yet again, the meal did not disappoint. If you like your beef well done, the menu politely suggests that you order the eight hour braise of featherblade, and I may well try that next time as I adore blade.

Be warned, the roast beef is rare, but it is expertly cooked. With a lot of aged beef, there can be a very strong back taste, almost liverish, which isn’t to my liking at all but this had none of that. Just a good, strong beef flavour, almost caramelised on the outside, and with a proper texture to it. This was an animal that had done some work in its lifetime.

The chargrilled leeks were beautifully sweet, and tender, and oh, my little pie! Beautifully flaky pastry, with a buttery finish, and savoury mixed mushrooms all bedded down into what tasted like a creamy tarragon sauce at the bottom. Butter, mushrooms, tarragon. You simply cannot go wrong with that.

Beef      

Pie with lid

The venison was similarly excellent. I tasted a small piece, together with some of the light chicken liver dumpling that accompanied it, and both were delicious. The venison had a fresh, delicate taste, not gamey, which I know might disappoint some but for me it was perfect. 

IMG_0266

We always say we might not go for dessert, and then the menu comes round and…well you can guess what happens next.

Dessert, that’s what.

Simon had a Cox’s apple, blackberry and almond slice with vanilla ice-cream

Cox apple and almond slice

and mine consisted of all the dark chocolate in the surrounding area.

It was a hot chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce and frozen hazelnut parfait. It was also a light sink. I appear to have photographed a light absorbing entity on my plate. I really would have like this to have been served in a bowl because I hated to leave any of that sauce behind on a hard to scrape clean plate.

See? Light absorption. I could have eaten that sesame wafer many times over.

Light sink

Gooey and dense

We honestly did not have room for coffee.

It’s such a nice place to go, and forget the world outside for a few hours. It’s going to be a pleasure to watch them getting better, and better.