Getting the party started..


Simple yet stunning..

Some readers requested some dinner party dishes, so this week I am presenting my 3 top tips for taking the pressure off but delivering something with the ‘wow’ factor for your dinner party guests.

Firstly, our featured picture displays how a nice presentation set can lift some really simple canapes to the next level. A nice piece of slate with some chef’s spoons, mini glass plates and mini tumblers with matching spoons. A worthwhile investment and can be picked up from amazon for far less than a fortune.

So, my top tips to make a success of your evening:-

Be smart with your ingredients

You might spot some cucumber ketchup on two of the canapes above, featured in a previous recipe with smoked mackerel tartare. Flexible and adaptable ingredients can make your life so much easier. Similarly, the cranberry gel featured on the moreish parcels below was a key component of the main course later that evening.  Smoked mackerel pate made to put on toast the following morning…but why not spoon into a glass with a snazzy cracker and some cucumber ketchup and you have 1/4 of this presentation set covered. Think about your entire evening of food, where can you double up and save time?

Early prepping for the win!

The more complex efforts of mini fishcakes and thai prawn cakes can all be prepped, put in the fridge ready to bake off and bring back to life ready for serving. I cannot stress enough the benefit of doing everything early so it is ready to finish off with 10 minutes in the oven, meaning you can actually enjoy the company of your guests and not be running around like a headless chicken.


Cranberry gel on the main course, doubled up to finish a canape in style..

Don’t be afraid to raid your store cupboard

Hidden within the featured dishes are 4 finishing touches you may not expect from a dinner party, but you would be a snob to turn your nose up at! :-

  • Tartare sauce – a teaspoon underneath each mini fishcake is a simple but superb finishing touch.
  • Mayonnaise – mixed up with fresh lemon juice to create a dressing, drizzled over thai prawn cakes.
  • Sweet chilli sauce – a great dipper, no need to make your own if you have 101 other things to worry about!
  • Panko breadcrumbs – a box of these and you can prepare to crisp up anything for frying!

Crispy panko crab balls, sweet chilli sauce..


Best Beef Rendang

Who doesn’t love a good curry?  But rather than the classic kormas and tame tikkas, have a bash at a simple but rewarding rendang, slow cooked to perfection.

A little bit of love is needed with this one but I promise it is absolutely worth the effort.

Beef Rendang

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

  • 10 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 cardamon pods
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 red chillis, seeds removed and roughly chopped
  • Thumb size piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 200g roughly chopped red onion
  • 1 tsp tumeric powder
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bashed and roughly chopped
  • 1 kg beef chuck, cut into big chunks
  • Ground nut oil for frying
  • 2 tins coconut milk
  • Soy sauce
  • Palm sugar
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Chopped coriander leaves to serve
  • Good quality salt flakes


  1. Heat a wok over a medium heat and toast the desiccated coconut until golden and fragrant before setting aside for serving.
  2. Toast the cloves, cardamon pods, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and star anise until popping, before grinding down with a generous pinch of sea salt to a powder in a pestle and mortar.
  3. Blitz up the garlic, chilli, ginger, red onion, tumeric and lemongrass with a splash of water to create your rendang paste.
  4. Season up the beef chuck generously with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat up your wok nice and high with some ground nut oil and fry off the beef (in batches if necessary) until there is nice caramelised colour on all the pieces.
  6. Pour in your paste and stir really well for a minute to coat everything.
  7. Sprinkle over the ground spices and stir again really well for a minute or two.
  8. Add both cans of coconut milk and de-glaze the pan before lowering the heat.
  9. Add a splash of soy sauce and a sprinkle of palm sugar.
  10. Let the curry gently bubble away for over an hour, stirring every so often. Consistency is to everyone’s taste, some like this curry dry and concentrated, some prefer a good thick sauce. It is up to you! I would recommend taking this to the brink of being dry over about 90 minutes, so it becomes rich and concentrated.
  11. Squeeze in the lime juice (you can use tamarind but limes are a bit more flexible and won’t go to waste). Combine and cook out until the consistency is as desired.
  12. You can mix in your desiccated coconut now or leave to garnish alongside the coriander. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Serve with steamed rice and some Indian spiced stir fried vegetables.

Fit for a King…


Stunning smoked trout..

A new entry into the best kept secrets archive this week from Evershot, half way between Dorchester, Dorset and Yeovil, Somerset, conveniently located just off the A37.

The George Albert Hotel offers in their words ‘definitely more than just a great night’s sleep’ and I would have to wholeheartedly agree given the gem that is the Kings Restaurant hidden within.

Presenting the pictured fillet of smoked trout, smoked salmon mousse, potato salad, horseradish cream, finished with all the panache you would come to expect from the standard of the AA rosette holding Kings Restaurant.

Definitely worth a pit stop if you are travelling via the A37.

George Albert Hotel (Kings Restaurant)

Wardon Hill


Nr Dorchester

Dorset DT2 9PW

Kitchen Heroes: Fresh Mussels


Ready to steam..

An absolute shoe-in to the kitchen heroes archive this week – fresh mussels.  Cooking them is simple and look after them with a damp cloth in the fridge to keep them alive as long as you possibly can.

These sustainable creatures are one of the most environmentally sound types of seafood, super cheap and healthy yet with the slightest amount of care and attention can taste like an absolute delicacy.  Ready in minutes, here are my top 3 ways to serve fresh mussels:-

3. Pan fried with garlic butter

Create some steam in a pan with a touch of water on a high heat before adding your fresh mussels and closing the lid.  Shake the pan after 90 seconds, steaming for a further 90 seconds before draining the pan.  Pick the mussels and let them steam dry ready for frying.  Pan fry shallots and garlic in a pan with a knob of butter until soft, before throwing in your mussel meat and seasoning lightly with sea salt but plenty of black pepper.  Finish with chopped parsley and spoon over your favourite toasted ciabatta or roll.

2. Paella

Add your fresh mussels to the paella pan for the final few minutes of cooking until they are all open.

1. Steamed with smoky bacon, cider and chilli

Fry smoked bacon lardons, celery, garlic, spring onions, fresh thyme and chilli in a heavy based pan until glossy, seasoning well.  Stir in your mussels before covering and steam for a few minutes.  As the mussels open, pour in 200ml cider. Reduce down before finishing with creme fraiche and fresh tarragon.  Great with straw fries or crusty bread.


‘A Confident Start’ – No 34 at the Orchid


1000 Leaves of Crab..

A restaurant review for a new addition to the Bournemouth dining scene this week. No 34 at the Orchid Hotel packages up a solid re-branding of the hotel and a very impressive dining offering for guests, locals and visitors alike.

Hidden away on Gervis Road, the restaurant is on the left as you enter the newly refurbished hotel. Through modern, sophisticated glass doors we were taken with a friendly welcome into a wonderfully cool and intimate dining area that seemed to snake around the building. This gives the feeling of more private dining as despite plenty of seating, there are some individual areas with no more than 10 covers within. Bread and olives, although a standard partner to accompany a nice aperitif, consisted of a particularly enjoyable selection at No 34, kicking off the evening in relaxed but impressive fashion.

1000 leaves of crab was enjoyed by our whole table, Dorset Crab with layers of guacamole, fresh tomato and vanilla oil. A really refreshing starter with all the indulgence you would expect from beautifully dressed crab. Rich crab with light partners on the plate, a lovely colourful plate of food.


Chef’s signature of Biarritz..

Whilst the table also enjoyed a fantastic duck breast dish, our featured pick had to be the chef’s signature hake. Bayonne ham topped a faultless piece of pan fried hake, finished with a typically melt in the mouth basquaise style concoction. Soft fish, crispy skin, lip smacking ham and a soft, moreish medley of vegetables.

Dessert offered up a trio of chocolate delights, a very trendy blackcurrant and hibiscus cheesecake, a classic tarte tatin served with salted caramel ice cream and another top drawer cheeseboard for Dorset.

We had a really enjoyable evening, very intimate with attentive service.  We will definitely return and hope No 34 continues as they have started, with a clearly skillful French chef cooking the food he knows and loves. Very promising indeed.

Al Fresco..


An outdoor authentic Thali treat..

Something a bit different this week as I reflect on the Spring and start of Summer and look forward to writing more in the coming weeks.  We have had some wonderful weather which has lead to some smashing outdoor dining opportunities.

Leading from the front, I got to trial some authentic Thali dishes alongside some spice kits from the Spice Sultan company.  These kits are not for the casual cook, you go out and source your own ingredients and use the provided spices to add the authentic touches.  I found it quite challenging cooking 6 dishes for a table of 4 but it was massively rewarding.  The result = a stunning Goan pork vindaloo, coconut rice, dhal, sweet potato curry, pickled onion salad and a coconut and ginger chutney.  It looks stunning in the Thali dish and a real treat to enjoy together as a family.


Another effort at my signature BBQ Paella..

We have managed two paella BBQs this Summer and also a Chicken Fajita effort, a really interesting way to bring everything outside when the weather is so nice, look at those wonderful colours.


Sizzling chicken fajitas..

A week off prompted a trip to Swanage and the good old classic crab sandwich was lovely touch in the sunshine.  The food and views were so good my parents returned days later for a crack at this stunning seafood selection.


What a selection!

We made some simple pan fried mackerel, salad and roasted beets, lovely and light.


Sweet and smoky..

Finally, what better way to finish off the day than getting the fire pit going and toasting marshmallows until they are crispy on the outside and soft and sticky in the middle.


Big kids..

So a teaser on what is coming up later into the Summer and beyond on the blog.  We will be taking a long awaited look at a cheese and wine belter of a restaurant, a new addition to the Bournemouth dining scene, some dinner party recipes and advice and a handful of new additions to the kitchen heroes hall of fame.

In the meantime, make the best of this Summer weather and get Al Fresco if you can!

Kitchen Heroes: Cornish Sea Salt


A cut above the rest..

Cornish Sea Salt takes its rightful place in the kitchen heroes archive this week.

Harvested fresh from Cornish waters, the Cornish Sea Salt company has found a unique spot on the supermarket shelves and is a regular addition to my shopping trolley.  It has a rich, intense flavour that transforms steaks, sauces, cocktails, poached eggs and homemade pastry.  It may cost that bit more than table salt or cheaper sea salt alternatives, but the difference is striking and for an ingredient we all use every single day, I really do recommend swapping up for this smashing salt – even if you just do so for seasoning your meat, fish and vegetables.

The original crystals pictured that I use daily are moist, chunky and stay crunchy for longer than the competition.  The chemically bitterness of regular salt is blown away by an almost zesty mineral flavour.

Keep your standard table salt for salting water for pasta and spuds but it why not have a browse of the Cornish Sea Salt selection of crystals, flakes, flavours, peppers, pinch pots and more:-

Funky Fusion To Share…

Soft, sweet and sticky octopus

A new entry into the best kept secrets archive this week from Spitalfields twix Whitechapel.  The nearest tube station to this London hidden gem is Aldgate East.

Yuu Kitchen is the ultimate relaxed, trendy dining experience for South East Asian fusion cuisine, sharing style.  Picking 3-4 dishes per person to share opens up incredible combinations from soft shell crab bao buns to wok fried crispy kale with shitake mushrooms.  The stunning BBQ octopus is one not to miss.  Powerful ginger and soy umami flavours working wonderfully with the soft and sweet octopus.

Funky cocktails, crisp Asian lagers and an excellent selection of world wines pair very nicely with the relaxed but sophisticated food offer.

A unique dining experience for me, and one I could get very used to.

Yuu Kitchen

29 Commercial Street

London E1 6NE

Kitchen Heroes: Celeriac


A nice sharp santoku ready to slice and dice..

Second into the kitchen heroes hall of fame is celeriac.  A root vegetable with a wonderfully mellow celery-esque taste with all the texture qualities of turnip or swede.  It is naturally creamy, sweet and takes on powerful flavours with ease.

Celeriac is a kitchen hero for me because of its versatility.  It is absolutely superb roasted, mashed, steamed, boiled, braised or turned into a delicious soup.  Once you have topped and tailed the root, simply peel the rough skin away before working quickly with your chopping as it will discolour like an aubergine or parsnip.

Here is some inspiration as my current favourite – braised celeriac in white wine with onion, celery, rosemary, chilli and garlic.

Fry off all these ingredients in a saute pan with a matching lid.  When you get a bit of colour on the veg, stir in a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, some chopped pickled chilli and a glass of wine.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes and finish with a swirl of honey, lemon juice and fresh parsley.  Serve as a side with pork tenderloin or your favourite grilled meat.

Celeriac makes it in to our weekly shop more often than not these days, and with it being packed full of vitamin k – great for healing wounds and healthy bones, there is every excuse to give it a go in your shop next week.

Heatwave BBQ with a twist


Paella on hot coals..

A bit of a recipe this week – but not as I would normally post with the finest of details and ingredients.  That is because I would love my readers to go and experiment with this one.

It’s beautiful BBQ weather in the UK at the moment with temperatures reaching 31 Celsius here today in Bournemouth.  If you’re aiming to feed 6 or so with your BBQ, it’s all too tempting to play it safe with burgers, sausages and co – but why not create a one-pan masterpiece with your own signature paella.

A meal all in one pan, and if you don’t have a paella pan then any all metal pan (no plastic handles) with a reasonably large flat surface area to work with will do.  There is no harm in doing this on the hob either if you fancy.  I cannot recommend enough getting yourself a paella pan from Amazon though.

Now here is where you’re expecting the recipe to start, but to keep you creative I’ll give you the key ratios for a 6-8 person paella:-

  • 500g paella rice (handy as you can buy a packet this size)
  • 200ml white wine (you may just have to drink the rest)
  • 1 litre chicken/veg/fish stock (infuse with saffron if you’ve got some)
  • 400g fresh or tinned tomatoes, chopped

The rest is as flexible as you like.  Start by frying off any combination of onions (red/white/spring), peppers, celery, garlic, chilli, chorizo, chicken or even the traditional rabbit before stirring in your rice for a few minutes.  Pour in the wine and once evaporated, add the stock and tomatoes and simmer away for ten minutes.  You can then finish with any combination of your favourite seafood.  Chunks of haddock or cod, tiger prawns, squid, mussels, cockles – it’s up to you!  Choose what you like and make it your own.

We always finish with lashings of lemon juice, peas and plenty of black pepper.  If you take off the heat and cover with foil for 10 minutes before serving, you’ll have the perfect paella to impress your guests with.

Happy BBQing!

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