It’s just two days until Christmas. If we can all kick the colds we’ve caught and I get the chance to wrap the children’s Christmas presents up then things could go according to plan. This year we are at home. We have friends joining us for Christmas Lunch and I’ve decided on a five-rib rack of beef. I ordered this over 5 weeks ago from Sauls of Spratton so it’s been well hung!
If you are wondering about the Fabulous Carol in this clip - It’s sung by the choir I sing with - it is the Northampton Bach Choir and as part of the 75year anniversary celebrations a CD of Carols was commissioned -You can find out more by clicking here.
After 5 not great attempts at making the sort of Barfi that I buy in the Indian quarter on Belgrave Road in Leicester for Prepped! I called Dharmesh who owns Bobby’s Restaurant in Leicester and asked for advice. He immediately said he’d lend me his wonderful chef Depak Modak , who is in this video below and showed me just how to make it!
I’ve modified Depak Modak’s recipe with just one addition - orange zest - otherwise this is the exact recipe.
Makes 12 pieces
Preparation 5 minutes
Cooking time 5 minutes
200ml cold water
500g full fat milk powder
200ml warm water
one tsp cardamom powder
Zest of 1 orange
70 g chopped Pistachio’s and Almonds
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 Put the Milk powder into a large bowl. In a saucepan heat the water and 100g of ghee. Once at boiling point pour onto the milk solids and mix well with a spoon. You can then use your hand to mix once the temperature has come down.
2 In the same saucepan add a further 20g of ghee, another 200ml of water, the sugar and the cardamom powder. Heat to dissolve the sugar. Turn the milk powder mix into the pan and add the orange zest. Mix well over a high heat for just one minute and then turn onto an oiled tray.
3 Scatted with chopped nuts and leave to set for 4 – 5 hours . Cut into shapes. Use with a week. Keep cool.
I also took a moment to work out the price of this recipe for the quantities used.
It’s a rough estimate but her goes
£2.25 milk powder
£0.75 chopped nuts
£0.05 tsp cardamom powder
Total cost £4.05 / 12 pieces = 33p each
It's the first opportunity I have had for some down time! I haven't actually had a day off work since I stopped work to write Prepped! Some of my twitter friends may recall that I went to my friend Gill's house last night to make a Christmas wreath. .. she's the most amazing florist and oversaw me making this.. . it really does declare Christmas for me when I hang it. It's official .. it's just 10 sleeps until Christmas .. and I am soooo enjoying a break to do Christmas the old fashioned way !
There is a restaurant in Leicester called Bobby’s. Today I went there to learn how to make real Barfi as they make the most incredible Indian sweets but I shall blog about that tomorrow. For now I’d like to share my lunch. A review if you like! Bobby’s has been in the same family since 1976 and with good reason. It makes the most amazing and utterly delicious vegetarian food to cater for the large population demanding authentic food from India.
The food is mainly from Gujarat in Western India and Indo China has made it on to the menu too. But today I went for the buffet option and a sweet lassie to drink. At just £6.99 for the buffet it’s brilliant value. There is Rice, japatti bread, Dahl, potato curry, bean curry, chutney, and several other delicious breads and cakes I just can’t pronounce .. but they are delicious! Don’t expect to hang out in a plush sumptuous maharaja palace though.. Bobby’s is all about the food, and believe me it really is such a seriously fabulous combination of spices, vegetables and bread that you don’t need fancy fittings and fixtures. You will be fixated on your dishes.
Frequented by locals, chattering, smiling greeting each other in a wonderful community way, it’s always lively and welcoming. . It’s clean. It’s consistent. It’s inexpensive and I suppose it really says something when you’ve been eating in a place for over 25 years and it is still just as fantastic as the first time. So for me there is no better restaurant in Leicester.. so please pop in .. ask about what to eat if you are unsure and enjoy a real Indian feast.
Plum Cobbler .. or Plum Slum as I've been informed it is known as in America is so welcome at this time of year. It is the 5th from last recipe to be developed for this book and despite being able to make it in my sleep... well almost in my sleep .. it has to be weighed and measured accurately . So hear I am at 10:30pm taking it out of the oven and Blogging about it. I am also eating it and I can tell you it is delicious. Well worth staying up late for. The spice in it lifts and the aroma of scone dumplings and bake plums with cardamon and cinnamon and nutmeg wafting about the house make writing the recipe up a delightful job.
Until just a few moths ago I had never heard of a BLAD. It certainly doesn't sound very glam. In fact the first time I heard it was from a book store manager in Waterstones in Oxford who said he'd very much look forward to seeing my BLAD. I wondered for a split second if he had a speech impediment and meant BRAD ( although quite why I'd be in there I have no idea!) Not one to nod and pretend I asked what is a BLAD. He was kind enough to explain that it stands for Book Layout And Design which is what the book sellers use to give to the book shops to show them how Prepped! will look. If they like it, they will order it. Copies also go the media and book reviewers.
300ml of orange Syrup left over from the Christmas Pudding.
6 egg whites
120g caster sugar
Preheat the oven 100°C/gas 1/4
1 Heat the syrup in a pan to just below boiling. In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they are fluffy. 3 to 4 minutes should do. Once they are fluffy and white and form soft peaks. Don’t stop the beating here, just slowly add a tablespoon at a time of the sugar syrup until it is all dissolved.
2 Then add the sugar - gently does it because tipping it all in at once knocks the air out of the eggs. Stopping beating the eggs means you knock the air out as you restart beating them. So a flow of continuous beating gets the best results.
3 Dollop the mixture onto greaseproof paper and bake for 2 hours.
Turn the oven off and leave in the oven allowing them to cool.Keep in an air tight container
If there is one thing that I love about the snow it is the prefect excuse to drink hot chocolate. The thing about hot chocolate is that it has to be right. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too bitter but not too sweet. As you can tell I am very particular about how it tastes, but I am also particular about it provenance. Organic is just better. The other thing I find about hot chocolate is that when I am out and about and I order one then everyone wants a cup. It gets expensive. It's not that I begrudge a cafe the money, but more often than not it's not to my taste and then with 5 of us .. it's jolly expensive for a mediocre cup and a cafe is usually miles away as we live in the countryside!
The question of where I get my inspiration from is probably the thing I get asked the most. Well just this morning I was shopping for some ingredients and there were the most glorious oysters on the fish counter. Never one to miss an opportunity for delicious food the fishmonger opened them for me as I stood and imagined how they would taste. A little lemon to go with them I thought. I love their saltiness, the soft flesh slipping effortlessly down my throat, finished with a sip of champagne. It's no accident they go so well together, but I find somethings can be improved on. so I scattered them with finely cut shallots and chives, and added just a drop of my lemon syrup to each oyster. Perfect for the Lemon chapter! Now I've finished photographing them I am going to eat them for lunch. Their saltiness exaggerated by the citrus and sugar in the syrup. It just a shame I can't have some champagne... but I've the school run to do in a minute!
Yesterday I was tweeted by a Lucy who owns a farm opening up as a B& B soon. She had taken the time to read my blog and you can't imagine my surprise as tweeted me to say she'd added my book to her Amazon wish list! Surly she'd got it wrong.. I'm still developing the final recipes this week! I searched on Amazon to discover to my simultaneous delight and fright that yes my book Prepped! is indeed there to pre order! I called Alastair from upstairs who was putting the children to bed. All three children and Al came and stared at the screen. There is is. It took a good few minutes to explain to my 8 year old that she couldn't buy it right now and she really did have to go back to bed! I spoke to my publisher today who said that my BLAD is ready and they have announced the book to the trade. Blimey - I'd better finish it !!
I’m not a girl who is easily impressed. I’ve eaten some seriously good food, especially in the Dordogne. I have spent years eating in some of the top French restaurants. So when my friend Gill told me about the Menu Decouvert at Le Manoir it sounded to me a little like how I imagine heaven will be like - 9 courses ! I called four weeks in advance in August to book in good time for or 10 year wedding anniversary and to look for inspiration for flavours in Prepped. Where else to find inspiration than at the table of a master? I was gently told by the receptionist that the soonest I could reserve a table for was November. As it was we went to Le brassiere Blanc instead where we were lucky enough to meet Raymond Blanc… but that is another story! I booked for November 27th – My birthday weekend as it happened.
Finally the big day arrived.
We arrived at 12.30pm. It was freezing cold. My first view of Le Manoir immediately made me want to go inside, whether we had a reservation or not! The honey colored stone and the path draw you in to an atmosphere that felt like coming home. Huge Log fires crackled in the grates and easy relaxed staff had us sipping champagne in warm comfortable surroundings within minutes. The canapés were just the start of what was to follow. Each created as a morsel of perfection. I’m not going to break down the meal mouthful by mouthful. Not because it doesn’t deserve it … but because it is enough for me to say that I have never eaten a meal like it. Every crumb was perfection. Each mouthful was a delight and I have never been so captivated by balance in texture and flavour before. The whole meal was extraordinary. I could not find a single fault. Trust me I was looking! Not a smudge on a glass, not a grain of seasoning out, nothing, and I mean nothing whatsoever, was not prefect.
At the end of the meal I was lucky enough to be invited to take a tour of the kitchens where Gary Jones, the executive head chef introduced me to his team of chefs and talked both my husband and I through the most fabulously organised and well deigned kitchen I have ever seen. There was order. The calm professional operation of the front of house extended all the way to the engine. The kitchen purred like a well-tuned engine. It was the end of service and the staff were getting ready for the evening shift, but you could see that when the pressure mounted the kitchen would simple change gear but it would remain smooth. This is a chef lead restaurant. There was order calmness and perfection throughout.