Friday, 24 December 2010

Last post for 2010

It's Christmas Eve.  I've worked non stop, 7 days a week until just last week.  So forgive me.. but I am taking a well earned break for Christmas. 

I've a party of friends and family arriving in an hour. .. opps make that 25 minutes!  We shall be eating home made mince pies, sausages and home made tomato chutney coleslaw, mulled perry, and pecan tart, with cinnamon  and Orange Brandy butter and then the feast tomorrow is a 5 rib rack of roast beef!

in the mean time now I've cleaned cooked and tidied like a looney I'm off to put some lippy on and a brush through my hair and I'll leave you with this Christmas Carol from the choir I sing with from the Northampton Bach Choir's Christmas CD on the video. 

Merry Christmas to you all and I shall be back in the New Year! 



Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas Cinnamon and Orange Brandy

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!

In the mean time I have a couple of video's about the Christmas Brandy recipe I use.  It makes a superb cocktail, a great gift, makes the best mince meat ever and it's what I make my brandy butter with.  It's truly multitasking!

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.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Orange and Cardamon Barfi

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 came home and set straight to making it.  Barfi or Burfi as it is also known is a sweet from India. It’s a super present to make and enjoy at any time of year but I particularly like to make it at Christmas because of the cardamoms in the recipe. It tastes festive.  I know that production of it goes to double time and then some at Diwali. It’s simple quick and easy to make and taste fabulous. I was asking Dharmesh about their celebrations at Bobby’s restaurant and if they do anything special to celebrate Christmas. His face broke out in the broadest grin ever as he confirmed what I had thought … that they celebrate everything at every opportunity, Diwali, Eid and Christmas and anything else worth being festive about in-between.  As it should be.  Food is about celebrating and this Barfi recipe certainly does that!

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

120g ghee.

500g full fat milk powder

200ml warm water

160g  sugar

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

£0.75 ghee

£2.25 milk powder

£0.25 orange

£0.75 chopped nuts

£0.05 tsp cardamom powder

Total cost £4.05 / 12 pieces  = 33p each

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Time off from cooking!

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 !

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Lunch in Bobby's Restaurant, Leicester

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.">Listen!

Friday, 10 December 2010

How it feels to finish writing a recipe book!

This is a short post. I have the school run to do but I really had to share this ! It seems so long ago since I first decide to write a book !


Monday, 6 December 2010

Plum Cobbler

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.

Prepped in Waitrose

Okay - I will admit the title is a little premature, but whilst I was out shopping today I just couldn't resist having a peek to see how it will look. How did it sit next to the other books? So I lay over the top of Jamie Oliver (sorry Joules!) and drew a crowd ! The general consensus was that it really holds it's own. It stands out .. a bit like me with my red hair I guess!
(Thank you Lea!)

Friday, 3 December 2010

Fighting over the BLAD

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.

Yesterday my publishers sent two copies of the BLAD's to me. I left one at home and like a child with a still wet painting, I rushed over to my mum to show her. My sister Fleur was there and the two of them poured over it comenting excitedly about the wild pink cover and the beautiful layout. I had goosebumps, no one would give me a more honest opinion that my mum and my sister.. to the point that my mother when she tells me something I don't want to hear says that no one else will tell you and I'm telling you because it's for your own good. Honesty guaranteed... and they loved it!

Mys sister then asked if she might take it to work. Mum then looked at me and said she'd like to keep it. They both looked at me. Rock/ Hard place / Rock. I left them to argue it out. My sister won by saying she has a contact in TV through her best friend Ali and that clinched it.

Luckily more arrived this morning .. so after I've made a version of Heston's christmas pudding phenomena I shall drop in and give mum hers.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Orange and Clove Italian Meringues Made from the Left over syrup of Heston's Christmas Pudding Recipe

Whilst everyone is raving about Heston's pudding - it would seem that we are all going to have to make our own puddings for ourselves this year as waitrose has sold out of the iconic pudding! Here Rose Prince makes a fabulous version of it from The Telegraph. So I had a go at making my own. At the end of candying the oranges I was left with over 750ml of the most glorious orange and cinnamon syrup. As part of this recipe book I decided to combine the principle of this pudding with my grandmothers recipe.. but really .. what to do with leftover sugar.. well here you go ... this one will end up in the book!


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

Alternatively you could use this for a baked Alaska recipe..

Waste not want not my grandmother would have said!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The best Drinking Chocolate is made by Rococo

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!

I found a solution that suits me down to the ground. A flask! filled to the brim! The best drinking chocolate I have had ever is by Rococo. It's not the cheapest... but it's bargain compared to the price of buying everyone a cup in a cafe - especially when you consider it's organic and that the quality is superb. I make up a really large flask before we leave the house and that is exactly what I did today in the snow. It's perfect for warming little hands that like to throw snowballs !

On the way back the opportunity to take some photo's for the book's Orange and Clove Chapter arose as I spotted some mums from nursery picking holly a the side of the road to make wreaths. It all feels very festive already, and just to polish off the remainder of the hot chocolate you can always ad a drop of brandy for a night cap whilst blogging!

Oysters for Lunch

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!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Prepped! is up on Amazon .. although I am still writing it!

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 !!

So today I spent the afternoon developing  the duck recipes.  The first is a Roast Duck Breast with chinese five spice and Plum Brandy served with Noodles.  Whilst roasting the duck for the noodles I prepped for the Chinese Duck tarts in filo pastry.  They were seriously delicious.  What has made my life so much easier is using the cool lights my husband bought me for my birthday present  . and yes I know he also took me to Le Manoir .. but I am a princess after all !

There was one other really amazing things that happened today.  I was called by a lady called Rebecca who works for Raymond Blanc.  She had done a search for Sophie Grigson and found the photo I took of her in August and wondered if she could use it for Raymond's Blog post.  I have to say that, like me, Sophie is never very keen on her photo being taken .. but his one is a stunning picture of her. I was of course delighted to agree and I was ticked pink to find Raymond had added my post about my meal at Le Manoir to his blog.  

It's been a good day, despite the snow I've now got just 9 recipes to go until the book is complete. ( there is is still editing and testing to be done .. but in essence it is just a week away from the first stage being finished!) 

To Pre order your copy Click here  whilst I REALLY must finish writing the rest of the recipes up now!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Lunch at Le Manoir

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 canap├ęs 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.">Listen!
If the truth is that there are many fine dinning restaurants you can choose from, but it wasn’t the food that made this meal one of the best dining experienced I’ve ever had - it was the whole that was in harmony. The building, the food and the people were balanced. The people were much part of the taste of Le Manoir as the dishes themselves, and it is this team of people that will have me returning time and time again - I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is, in every detail, faultless.