Monday 29 September 2014

Our second birthday - and how it all began

We've been going for two years.

The question I'm most asked is: why did I start? My eldest son, Fabian, was very keen to go on a month long trip to Borneo. This was going to cost in excess of £3000 (with equipment etc). The idea was that Fabian and us were meant to fund raise. A year earlier we'd raised £1500 to send him to The World Scout Jamboree in Sweden, partly by baking cakes and selling to friends but I'd had enough of baking (yeah, ironic) so I thought we'd open a 'supper club'. We have a great family dining space at the back of our house and I love cooking for friends.

We rang up our friends, saying: you know you've always said you'd pay for my food? Now's your chance. Friends brought friends who brought friends. Before long, I had strangers ringing saying: I hear you have a restaurant. Can I book?

To misquote Withnail: we'd started a business by mistake.

People ask me if I'd like to upscale to a restaurant. I don't. This is all I want, to serve private parties with honest food, the best I can make. Small is good.

Anway, our second birthday came and went. I've only just noticed. It was also our first weekend back after the August holidays.

Friday was Lala's birthday. Her first time with us.

Saturday was Helen, Amy, Olga, Kersten, Manjit and Penny. 
They've been before and they're coming again in December.

Both parties had the chocolate soufflés, served with salted toffee sauce and vanilla mascarpone. because I can't pause to take a photo as the soufflés come out I grabbed my camera only a few minutes later. This was the result.

It's a good dessert.

New River Restaurant recipe Index

Probably making vinaigrette of charred vegetables
This is partly for me. I use this blog as a reference now; easier than trying to remember which page of what book, a year later. These recipes are invariably based on someone else's and I usually credit them but I often fiddle (especially with timings) to make them work in my kitchen. You can trust that these have all been tried and tried again.

If I could easily include pictures, I would. But this is Blogger and that's a world of pain just waiting. If Blogger could be improved by me shouting at it, it would have happened already.

Listed in order of main ingredient. Just click the name.

Almond biscuits, chewy and crisp

Apple charlotte pudding
Apple crisps
Apple spiced, poached
Apple sauce - dessert

Asparagus and ricotta tart

Barley risotto

Beef short ribs in barbecue sauce
Beef short ribs braised
Black olive 'twigs'
Braised beef shin
Braised brisket

Brisket spiced and slow roast
Butternut squash soup (curried)
Butterscotch mousse

Cauliflower puree

Roast celeriac soup
Pickled celery
Cherry jam
Chicken liver and sherry paté
Chicory - baked with orange juice

Chocolate cake with rum (devil's food)
Chocolate fondant pudding
Chocolate ice cream
Chocolate marquise
Chocolate mousse (vegan)
Chocolate soufflé
Chocolate syrup
Chocolate tuile
Cod with holy basil, en papillote
Coconut icecream vegan
Courgettes - stuffed, Sicilian style

Crab on toast (more assembly than recipe)
Crackers - malted, sunflower seed
Crackers - Rye
Créme fraîche ice cream

Crumble topping
Custard Tart
Crystallised Pistachios (or any nut)

Dulce de Leche ice cream

Fennel and onion tart tatin
Fennel fritters

Fennel pickled
Fig and goats cheese tart
Focaccia (1) proper
Focaccia (2) mine

Focaccia, roast shallot
Friands, raspberry
Fruit vinegar glaze

Ginger biscuits

Gnocchi (French)
Granola (vegan)

Herb oil

Honeycomb Ice cream

Ice cream: chocolate, rum & raisin, vanilla

ice cream: pistachio

'Kimchee' coleslaw

Lancashire hotpot (mutton)

Lamb chump
Lamb, rack with a herb crust
Langue de chat biscuits
Lemon curd
Lemon meringue pie
Lemon posset
Lemon vinaigrette

Mint granita

Mint choc chip ice cream
Mustard vinaigrette

Mushroom and truffle soup (amuse bouche)

Nuts - warm spiced

Onion fondue

Orange sorbet
Orange - candied orange tart

Pain d'epices - spiced fruit loaf
Parmesan thins

Passionfruit soufflé
Pastry - flan
Pâte sablée (French shortbread)

Pâte sucrée (sweet pastry)
Pea bavarois
Peas and broad beans crushed

Peanut butter ice cream
Pesto crackers
Pickled pears
Pineapple and lime ice

Polenta with blue cheese
Pork Belly (slow roasted)
Potatoes baked in cream (Daupinoise)
Potatoes en papillote
Potatoes roast
Poussin roast

Raspberry sorbet

Redcurrant jelly
Red cabbage - pickled
Red cabbage - sweet and sour with caraway
Rhubarb baked with orange zest
Rhubarb galette
Rhubarb sorbet
Rhubarb Tumble cocktail
Rum and Raisin ice cream

Salmon en papillote

Smoked haddock gratin
Soda bread (with treacle)
Sourdough bread
Sponge - espresso, Genoise
Sponge mix

Tomato and ginger sauce

Tomato jelly
Roasted tomato soup
Tuile - chocolate
Tuile - orange almond
Tuile - vanilla biscuit

Vanilla ice cream

Vegetable terrine

Walnut and date pudding

Walnut pastry
White bean bruschetta

Yorkshire puddings

Friday 26 September 2014

Massive missing marrows and other summer miscellany

Not to scale. That's not even it - it was much bigger. That's also not me - I'm much bigger too, and fatter*
My neighbours gave us a huge marrow. I was underwhelmed, I confess. Never had marrow? It's like courgette but without the really intense flavours. Yes, that is sarcasm. But I can't find it. It was sitting on the side for days; I went to take a picture and there it was... gone. It was a beast too: at least two foot. So that's not even my marrow in the picture. That's a picture from a marrow recipe blog.

Oh bugger, this is a negative start to a blog after some weeks away. I don't even have a bloody picture of the missing marrow. I think my wife gave it to our other (vegetarian) neighbours after we learned that marrow had actually been second hand anyway, coming from a friend of the original neighbours. I hope you're paying attention? This is important stuff.

The marrow was the second odd vegetable I was given this week. Anyone know what this is (pictured below)? I suspect it's some kind of squash. I'm not even sure who donated it and my wife was vague about this one too. Perhaps a work colleague?

Not a marrow. Nice shot though.

We closed for August. It was the first free weekend I'd had for five months. The timing was good, as I had a September deadline for my new drama episode for ITV. We also redecorated Etien's bedroom. He's come to that age where he suddenly feels the need to put away childish things and demanded a room that feels like his. Fair enough. I built him a big (massive!) desk for his computer and his artwork. You're thinking 'built'? It's a bit of wood on legs. Yeah, but you're not seeing the cable management cut outs and tray and the nifty bedside cupboard too. There was also a great frustration with varnish that almost had me projecting the whole thing into next door's garden.

The desk (and shelves) we built against the wall we painted.
The drum stool has now been replaced with a proper chair.

Food-wise? Not much. We decided that the boys don't cook enough so we have a new regime in place. Fabian cooks on Tuesdays, Etien on Wednesdays  They must cook from a recipe (usually Jamie's 30 minute meals) and there must be vegetables. They do each dish twice; the first time with parental assistance and then second time solo. It's proving such a good idea, partly because we are all eating new foods. Also, it does seem to be true that if kids cook it themselves they are more tempted to eat it.

I discovered that I liked Marmite. This is after 40 years. I did one of those daft Facebook quizzes. "How fussy an eater are you?" There were only two things on the list I  didn't like: sprouts and Marmite. I know I don't like sprouts - they are bearable pan fried with bacon but only because you can't taste the vegetable. Marmite I'd not tasted since I was, perhaps, seven years old. So I did, and I like it. I don't love it but it has a useful meatiness. I'll try it in beef gravy.

The lemon tree has lemons. Twenty two small green fruit. This is amazing. The fact the tree is, is amazing. I am a bit like human glyphosate. No. That's not true. I don't mean to kill plants, they just do. But the lemon tree is bucking the trend. I doubt we'll have sufficient sun to render the fruit edible but will test and see. They smell fantastic.

Small green lemons

I bought some jugs... from America! I have a jug fetish (you at the back, no sniggering). So many jugs don't. A jug has two purposes: to hold liquid and to dispense held liquid. All too many fail at point 2. They splutter and dribble and overflow their spouts. These are American and technically they are pitchers. The one on the left is for lemonade apparently and is a shape you rarely see in Europe. I found them on a website called Etsy; second hand stuff at jumble sale prices. As I write this I'm feeling self conscious. Who the hell sends to the US for cheap aluminium jugs? I've always been... let's call it 'partiular' about household goods. In college I spent a week's grant money (remember grants?) on a knife and fork. I still have them. My friends were... let's call it 'bemused'.

Proper pitchers

*Finally, a small achievement of my own. You'll see less of me now... because there's less to see. Attendance at a wedding at the end of June necessitated the wearing of a suit. I have two: a large black one and a larger black one. Struggling to do up the trousers I reached for the larger suit, only to realise I was wearing it. It was a rubicon crossed. This far and no further. For three months I have fasted every other day. So far I've lost about two stone but I want to lose another two. Yes, I was that overweight. The only problem is that the only clothes that fit me now are twenty years old so not only will I be thinner I'll also be rocking a certain retro look.