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My philosophy

This blog is dedicated to my love of eating, cooking, writing and reading about food. In it you'll find recipes, book reviews, restaurant reviews and various other food related bits and pieces.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The Bay, Penzance

To celebrate our engagement, my father offered to take us to a highly renowned and recommended restaurant in the town of Penzance upon our return for the festive period. Being an employee of the restaurant, one of my friends had spoken of The Bay, and with her sister cooking in the kitchen, who was I to argue? The Bay it was!

Having survived the day on relatively meagre offerings (compared to the hoards of food I'd wolfed down on previous days)- a couple of slices of toast and a turkey and ham sandwich, I was quite ready to indulge in some fresh, local seafood.

We began by sitting in the lounge, simply perusing the menu. We were then offered drinks and some appetisers of prawns with aoli- a simple sample of the quality of the food yet to come. The toast was crisp, the prawns fresh and juicy with the tangy mayonnaise dressing to complement.

Upon ordering, the manager informed us, to our surprise, that my lovely friend, Jenna, had bought us a bottle of Prosecco to go with our meal- a jolly good start to the night!

We were ushered through to the restaurant where we were seated by the window. We shared a toast over the tall, bubbling glasses of fizz and looked forward to our courses to come. Crusty onion and poppy seed bread was served to us from a wicker basket- in keeping with the nautical interior, and we readily ploughed through the dish of Cornish butter, lavishing every corner and crust.

The evening menu was very good value for money, £24 for 2 courses or £29.95 for 3. To start I had pan-fried south coast scallops, butternut squash ravioli with a hazelnut and shallot dressing (paying a small supplement for the privellege). The contrasting flavours and textures between the plump, juicy, scallop and the nutty, crunchy toasted hazlenuts was superb. The ravioli was somewhat lost with its delicate flavours and velvety texture amongst the crunch of the green micro-salad.

For my main course I had pan-fried free range West Country Duck, chicory with proscuitto ham, pickled plum and red wine jus alongside panache of vegetable and potatoes boulangere. I asked for my Duck medium, and it was cooked to perfection. Pink, plump and juicy with crisp, hazel coloured flesh. The wonderful jus that accompanied it was bitter-sweet. The plums provided the acidity which cut cleanly through the rich, dark meat of the duck. Simply divine!
The vegetables were al dente- as they should be, and the potatoes were rich and creamy, as to be expected.

All in all, the meal was fabulous, the only thing that was noticeably absent, was the presence of my friend, so I could thank her for the unexpected bottle of bubbly!

My advice- book it (if you're in the area of course!)

Festively plump and full of cheer...

As with most people, from December 24th, the Christmas glut began. Rich salmon en croute with buttery mashed potato and peas, followed by mince pies with clotted cream. The inevitable, endless hoard of food on Christmas day, led to the left over ham within a bird within a bird within a layer of stuffing and a trio of desserts on boxing day.

Now, the simple thought of such things could see my trouser buttons flying off at tremendous speed, the likes of which I could take someone's eye out with!

A roast dinner followed yesterday, more food on top of food- roast Beef with all the trimmings, but hey, I'm not complaining!
I decided to throw together a simple dessert from the pears I didn't use on Christmas day, my recipe is as follows:

Pears Poached in Mulled Wine
4x Firm Pears (peeled)
1x Bottle Red Wine

225g Caster Sugar
1x Te
aspoon Cinnamon
1x Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

1x Teaspoon Mixed Spice
4x Whole Cloves
  1. Place the wine, sugar and spices in a saucepan. Stir until mixed.
  2. Place the pears in the pan and bring to the boil.
  3. Lower the heat, and place the lid on the pan, allowing the pears to simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the poached pears and allow them to cool.
  5. Continue to heat the wine until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Allow this to cool.
  6. Serve the pears whole drizzled in the syrup with a good dollop of Clotted Cream!
After the rich, heavy foods associated with Christmas, this makes a nice, refreshing alternative (unfortunately, it doesn't count as one of your five a day!) And the great thing is, not only can they be made up to two days in advance, the texture and delicately spiced flavours are a nice change from the heavily alcohol lagged brandy butter injected fodder of the festive period!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Blog of the month- British Cream Tea

This month, my favourite blog happens to be the labour of love of a lady who happens to inhabit the same city as me! She calls herself a felt confectioner, an artist who not only creates delectable pieces of art which look perfectly edible, she also provides consumable recipes for some of her creations and step by step instructions on how to create her 'mock' food.

British Cream Tea is a beautiful blog, inspired by creator Ouissi's love of all things fabric, vintage and edible! Ouissi is an inspirational artist who's recent works have been sold in various galleries and exhibited at the Winter Art's Fair in St George's Hall, Liverpool.

The blog puts me in mind of a vintage fair that delights the senses and stimulates the soul, harking back to the days when people were more creative and innovative. The days when everyone knew how to knit, sew and even darn socks! Skills which have been put aside, but not forgotten, as Ouissi demonstrates.

A simple idea which has successfully seen an artist turn food into timeless art and delicious confectionery for her family and followers.

I hope my blog will look as pretty as hers someday...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Book it, cook it, or f#@k it up for everyone!

You know when you have one of those brilliant, albeit, last minute ideas? One of the ones where you think, this could be brilliant, if I pull this off, then this will be the best birthday surprise- ever!
Well, the night before last, these thoughts flitted through my mind, racing and raging, until, inevitably, I baked the mother of all birthday cakes- a four layer chocolate fudge, mocha gateau covered in rich, chocolate butter icing.

The reasoning behind this was, after missing my friend's birthday last weekend, I suggested we do something this week to celebrate. And seeing as it was another friends birthday this week, I thought; why not make an occasion of it? So we booked a table at a restaurant that HAD been one of favourites for some time (Esteban on Lark Lane in case you were wondering).

I confirmed the final numbers on my way home from work yesterday, and I also informed them that I would be dropping in a birthday cake to be brought out at after the meal. This all seemed fine, and after putting the finishing touches to the masterpiece, my dutiful fiance dropped it off for me.

Things were all going to plan as all eight of us congregated in the restaurant. We couldn't help but notice a particularly loud party of women seated nearby, who made it their business to make me shudder with their various screeches and howls of laughter. We ordered our wine and our tapas and were all set for a good night...

The conversation flowed as we caught up with one another, the restaurant quickly filling up with various other large parties. Our food arrived promptly, and the waitress shouted out the various dishes, and we passed them down the table. Then came along THE waiter, a blundering buffoon, that seemed to be cursed not only with bad manners and impatience, but other unsavoury characteristics which came to light about ten minutes later.

He approached our table with the remaining dishes on the tray, and seemingly flung the food at us, without even naming the various cuisines- we were all left a bit stunned, but we passed the food around, guessing and swapping the items which had been dumped willy nilly across the table.

After tucking in, the lights in the restaurant dimmed as THE waiter approached the cackling women opposite with a birthday cake. They all burst into song, and I looked up in horror to see MY cake being served to the other party. You can imagine the look of disbelief on my face as I sprung up from my seat to try and salvage my little labour of love.

As I screamed 'That's my cake, that's my cake!' THE waiter replied smugly 'Are you serious?', at that point I felt the bile rise in the back of my throat... He blew the candles out and removed the cake from the table as the odious women on the table fell into fits of hilarity at my expense.

I'd never been so embarrassed in my whole life. My intricate plans had been foiled by one incompetent member of staff's idiotic blunders, and all I could do was cry.

Diners looked on in disbelief as the tears rolled down my face, and the manager apologised in a most sterile manner, not even addressing me (the person who had booked the table, baked the cake etc) saying that he would waive the service charge and give us some free drinks- not much of a consolation for ruining my BIG surprise....

The anger began to subside after my friends reassured me that it was a lovely gesture, and the attentive waitresses checked I was ok, THE waiter offered an unconvincing sympathetic look which I ignored, and we continued to eat in a most uncomfortable atmosphere.

I thought that was the worst point of the night over, but then another waiter began to clear away our plates when half the table were still eating, he even tried to take some of our wine glasses too! We quickly stopped him, advising him to look down the table at all the uneaten food...

My friend Elaine, bravely ventured to the bar and asked about some free drinks which the manager had promised us, and came back with some good news, three bottles, on the house- it was the least they could do!

After the table was cleared, I asked for the cake, not a problem I thought... Then not one, but two waitresses came over, one after the other, the first asking if I wanted candles (well yes, it was a birthday cake, and I'd given them eight candles to put in it!) the second, to tell me it would be a few minutes.... at that point I'd gone beyond caring, and felt like asking 'Is it still in the oven?! Or has someone else eaten it?'

Then the cake came out of the kitchen with THE waiter clumsily trying to hide it behind a menu, and as we broke out in song, the whole restaurant joined in and cheered at the end. It certainly livened us up, and as we tucked into the cake, we all agreed, it was worth the wait! We asked for the bill, and were ready to scrutinise it and saw that out of the six bottles of wine, we'd only had the three for free, the service charge had been knocked off too- but with the terrible service, I'd have walked out without paying, had there been a dispute.

One of the waitresses grabbed the cake and disappeared with it as we threw our money into the kitty. My heart was thumping, what was she doing with my cake? Would I ever see it, or my lovely glass plate again? I waited with baited breath, only to be told she was wrapping it up for me to take home, thank goodness.

All my friends assured me that they'd had a great night, but I still feel like I was robbed. My two friends Joe and Sasa, had never had anyone surprise them like that before, and Esteban took that away from them. No amount of compensation can get that back, and I never want to return to that amateurish place again- I was so, so angry last night, I couldn't even taste the food properly!

So my re-issued advice, don't book it! Steer clear! Leave your cake at home and eat it there, so if anything goes wrong, you'll only have yourself to blame.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A trifling matter...

As with most people, I see Christmas as a time of opulence, of giving gifts beyond our means and buying more food than we could ever feasibly manage. With this in mind, I've been thinking of neat ways to recycle food that's been forgotten, allowing it to go past its best and indeed, rejuvenating it by turning it into something completely new. Something we can all bare in mind I'm sure, when we're left perplexed by a mountain of Christmas Turkey....
I know this is a completely unoriginal idea, but I'm simply sick of being wasteful. Some people see a stale cake as something to be thrown away with the rubbish, but I see it as an ample opportunity to flex my creativity, and turn a cake-tastrophe into a masterpiece.
A prime example of this- my fiance and I live together, and although we both enjoy eating the cakes and desserts I make, we often find ourselves throwing the last scraps away.
I made a carrot cake the week before last, and it had been sitting, un-iced and looking un-interesting for about a week. (Can I just point out now- the cake was actually very nice, we just kinda forgot about it).
Then I had an idea, stale cake=trifle! I've never tried it with carrot cake before, but it actually worked! The recipe I followed called for nuts, citrus rind, carrots, butter, sugar, flour and eggs (I'll dig out the recipe if anyone's interested). I purchased 2 tins of peach slices (in juice) and cut up the cake and place it in a large dish.
Then I soaked the cake with some of the peach juice drained from the can. Next, I made up a batch of custard (according to the instructions), you can, of course use tinned or fresh custard- or even make your own if you're feeling inspired. I set the custard aside to cool and poured the peaches on top of the sponge.
When the custard cooled, on it went. Then came the cream- I whipped a small pot of double cream with some icing sugar and spread it thickly on top of the custard and finished with lashings of hundreds and thousands..... simple!
I know this is a bit of an essay, but I'm trying to drive home a point- it doesn't take a lot to be resourceful, I mean, most people would've slung the cake out and that would've be that... but for the last few days, I've had a lovely trifle for my pudding, and I don't feel guilty, as I've wasted nothing, so there!
Think twice before you throw things away! Visit Love Food Hate Waste for ideas on how to utulise your freezer, extend the life of fresh fruit and veg, and recipe ideas for leftovers.