Tag Archives: fine dining

Getting the party started..

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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.

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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!
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Crispy panko crab balls, sweet chilli sauce..

 

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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
Ingredients:

  • 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

Method:

  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…

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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

Evershot

Nr Dorchester

Dorset DT2 9PW

http://gahotel.co.uk/

‘A Confident Start’ – No 34 at the Orchid

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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.

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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..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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What a selection!

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

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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.

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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!

‘Edinburgh’s prestige wines’ – Purslane

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Unique flavour combinations..

This week brings an exciting take on one of the most impressive dining experiences in recent memory.  The overall wine, food and service as a package was wonderful.  Inspired by a previous visit to ‘Purslane’ in Cheltenham, when sampling the Edinburgh dining scene, a visit to the completely unrelated namesake in the trendy Stockbridge area of Edinburgh seemed an obvious choice.

The opportunity to sample ‘premium wines’ was too good to turn down here.  It’s a fantastic way to get to grips with world class wines without paying the premium of an entire bottle.  Paired wonderfully with the 7 course tasting menu option, we were blown away by two wines and the port selection in particular and the entire evening guided by our wonderful server and sommelier extraordinaire, Alex.  Purslane is a small, intimate restaurant with approximately 20 covers, a relaxed atmosphere but fine dining quality food on offer.

Kicking off with celeriac veloute, paired with a crisp glass of Delamotte Brut Champagne, a swirl of rapeseed oil will have been a familiar site from last week’s kitchen hero entry.  Everything you want from an amuse bouche, this one.

The first starter of seared scallops with marmalade, pomegranate and carrot puree was very clever.  I have served scallops at home with chilli jam before but the bitter marmalade goes very nicely with sweet scallops and carrot.  The fresh pomegranate seeds cut right through the dish to finish cleanly.

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Pork, black pudding and apple..but not as you know it..

Our first main course, combining pork, black pudding, celariac and apple, each individual element combining for a cuddle on a plate.  Such hearty flavours but executed in a really refined way.  Small apple balls cut into the shape of a whole fruit, very clever.

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How crispy can you go?

Crispy skinned sea bream, mussels and a mussel and saffron veloute was brought to life by possibly our favourite wine of the evening.  A stunning Sauvignon Gris from Chile.  Our first experience of the less common and more mysterious relation of the widely available Sauvignon Blanc, this 2012 variety from Casa Marin was clean finishing but not before wonderful fresh and smoky oak flavours backed up by floral and spicy aromas.

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No yorkshire pud needed here..

Sunday afternoon roast rolled up into one next, with roast beef rump, fondant potatoes, tenderstem broccoli and a rich but tart oxtail and red wine jus.  A Spanish red with 100% tempranillo grapes swept you along beautifully with this one.

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Bakewell tart, Mr Kipling eat your heart out..

Cheese before pre-dessert, with our 1998 late bottled vintage port washing incredibly well with a smashing selection.  A recommendation for Epoisse if you can find it, a strong creamy cheese much like my favourite french cheese Reblochon.  Pre dessert and a twist on classic bakewell flavours with poached apricot was a unique addition to a tasting menu.

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Another fresh orange and chocolate combo..move aside terry..

Finishing with chocolate mousse, with orange, lemon balm and cardamon brulee, it was a truly incredible evening of food in a relaxed environment.  A huge thank you to Alex who went the extra mile for us with wine and food explanation in a relaxed way.  Casual fine dining may sound like an oxymoron, but for me it absolutely sums up this smashing little restaurant.  A must visit when in Edinburgh.

Catch of the day…

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The ultimate seafood platter..

A new addition to the best kept secrets archive this week, with a recommendation for a fresh seafood selection to die for.  The Seafood Platter, Beer is a quaint pub with access to the finest, freshly caught seafood.  A really relaxed ‘pub grub’ atmosphere is blown totally out of the water by the special sea food menu.

Beer is a superb little seaside fishing village, well worth visiting for the wonderful coastal walks and beautiful cove.

The pictured ultimate platter needs to be ordered when booking a table to ensure you do not miss out all of the elements, including tiger prawns, crab, mussels, scallops, oysters and cockles.  Stunning and served simply with lemon, bread, butter and aioli.

Sometimes you have to look into the unexpected to find incredible food.

The Seafood Platter

Fore Street

Beer

Devon

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