My first ever review – The Rule Britannia Party at Stoke Place

A couple of weeks ago I completed an internship with the wonderful people at Wild Card PR. Not only did I gain a valubale insight into the world of PR, I also got to meet some very lovely people. Another bonus was that I got to write a blog post about a party I went to at a rather lovely country hotel.

Not only was I writing for someone else for the first time but this was also my first ever review, so have a gander on the link below and let me know what you think –

The Rule Britannia Party – Stoke Place

 

 

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Cooking for 6 at £5 per head – Blue Cheese Soufflé, Chorizo and Butterbean Stew and Waitrose Fool Desserts

 

Not so long ago I headed down to my local Waitrose with £30 in my wallet. Optimistically I was looking to cook a homemade supper for 6. With this budget I honestly thought I was going to end up serving crisps and dips for starters, microwaving ready meals for mains and serving bland unhealthy choc ices for dessert. But, after some research on the internet, perusing the Waitrose website and flicking through my compilation of cookery books I was positive that I had found the deal and recipes for a delicious dinner.

Feeling a bit fancy and showy-offy I was very much taken with a goat’s cheese soufflé recipe, I also decided that because it was around St. Patrick’s Day I should swap the goat’s cheese with an Irish Cashel Blue: a salty but delicious offering from the Emerald Isle. Heading a bit further South into Europe I discovered a Spanish offering of chorizo and butterbean stew, a great dish to share with friends over a bottle of plonk. I also wanted something I could use a freshly baked baguette from Waitrose to mop up the juices with. Pudding I felt was going to make me go over budget, but upon arrival at the dessert aisle I found an epic deal for Waitrose’s own brand fruit fools – the kitchen gods must have been smiling on me.

Having a keen eye for bargains and being a bit Yorkshire (North Yorkshire – the nice part) I was more than pleased to see the cost came to a credit crunch busting £29.83. Therefore I not only managed to stretch my pennies and stay under budget, but I also served up a great meal for equally great friends.

Blue Cheese Soufflé

Serves 6

You will need:

50g butter

50g plain flour

300ml milk

150g blue cheese

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of white pepper

6 free range eggs (separated)

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease eight ramekins. Melt butter in a small saucepan, stir in flour and cook for a dew seconds.
  2. Remove from heat, gradually stir in milk, return to heat and cook. Stir constantly until thickened
  3. Crumble cheese into sauce, stir until cheese has melted. Season with cayenne pepper and white pepper (you will not need salt as the cheese will have enough already). Remove from heat and beat in egg yolks one at a time
  4. Whisk egg whites until standing in soft peaks. Whisks one or two spoonfuls into the sauce. Once mixed, carefully fold in the remaining egg whites (make sure you do this the moment before the next step, not before, or they will not rise)
  5. Spoon into ramekins and bake for 20 – 25 mins till risen and golden. Serve immediately.

Chorizo and butter bean stew with garlic and thyme

Serves 6 

You will need:

700g of dried butter beans

450g of chorizo

90ml of olive oil

10 garlic cloves (roughly sliced)

1 medium onion (finely chopped)

350ml of red wine

800g chopped tomatoes

2tbsp thyme leaves

4tbsp flat leaf parsley

sea salt

To serve:

Sliced baguette

Chunks of butter

  1. Simmer butter beans for 1 ½ hours. Drain and set aside
  2. Cut chorizo into thin slices. Put olive oil and garlic into a large pan and heat on a medium-high heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. Add the chorizos and cook until slightly browned on both sides. Add onion and cook until softened
  3. Add red wine, cook to reduce until almost nothing. Add tomatoes, thyme, butter beans and ½ teaspoon of salt
  4. Simmer for 15 mins
  5. Spoon into large bowls, scatter over some parsley. Serve with bread and butter.

Waitrose Apricot, Raspberry and Rhubarb fools

Serves 6

You will need: 

  1. Go to the a Waitrose supermarket
  2. Buy two of each flavour from the dessert aisle
  3. Serve after dinner with some spoons

 

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Savoy Tartiflette with Reblechon and Goat’s Cheese

Last week I returned triumphantly from an amazing ski holiday in the French Alps with the lovely people below.

 

I was definitely a little bit more tanned, a lot happier, certainly more relaxed, and incredibly knackered. I was also sporting an extra half stone in weight. Of this ‘surplus baggage’ I do not mind. I earned it in the easiest and most fun way possible: skiing, drinking and eating (and lots of it!). 

You see, eating in a European ski resort is rarely healthy, particularly when you are in the heart of the French Savoy region. Be it in resort or on the mountain, the menus are dominated with big hearty promises of butter, bread, cakes, cheese, cheeses, more cheese, chocolate, cream, crepes, fondues, half roast chickens, pasta, potatoes, soups, sausages, steak haché, an innumerate amount of dried meats and almost everything comes with the option of ‘avec frites’. I even had a Savoy Pizza topped with crème fraiche, bacon and potatoes. To help wash everything down there was a heavy consumption of beer, wine, genepy and toffee vodka. I was in holiday heaven and more than happy to consume my fair share of it all. 

Like the prices, the food, drink and the restaurant experiences vary widely. Some restaurants like La Galette (Meribel) served great fondue and raclette but disappointed with some sub standard service whilst La Bergerie in Courchevel offered some above average and fairly overpriced fare, but their waiters impressed and scored perfect marks for their professionalism, friendliness and entertainment value. We certainly left that place satisfied and inebriated. As for après ski, the establishments of note are the Folie Douce (Val Thorens), Aux Petit Oignons (Meribel) and the ever reliable Rond Point (Meribel) – a dangerously short ski from bar to chalet. Also, I must not forget to mention our chalet hosts: the Twins – Rish and Raj. They were brilliant; they worked wonders with their paltry food budgets and supplied us every afternoon with fresh cakes and biscuits. They even managed to please the most demanding member of our party by making sure he got his bacon sandwich every morning. 

My only issue with the holiday was that it did not last long enough and I still want to be there. Being back at work, if only for four days, has only helped but enhance my holiday blues. So in the spirit of positive reinforcement and not wanting to let go of my holiday just yet, I decided to cook a tartiflette for myself and my housemate. 

The tartiflette is a typical dish found all over the Savoy region and is a wonderful unification of cheese, bacon and potatoes. Unsurprisingly there are 101 recipes available on the internet. I have amalgamated three I found online. The only reason I used two cheeses was that my cheese man only had one wheel of reblechon left and suggested I used a standard, but French, goat’s cheese. It was a pleasant surprise and, in my opinion, enhanced the dish wonderfully. Give it a go and tell me what you think! 

PS – I hope you are all having a great Easter and like me, do not want it to end. 

Savoy Tartiflette with Reblechon and Goat’s Cheese 

Serves 4 

You will need: 

1 kg of potatoes (unpeeled) 

250g of Reblechon Cheese (crust removed and sliced evenly) 

300g of Goat’s Cheese (crust removed and sliced evenly) 

200g of smoked bacon 

1 Onion (finely chopped) 

200 ml crème fraiche 

50g butter 

lots of pepper for seasoning 

1 clove of garlic (halved) 

1 knob of butter…for buttering 

To serve: 

Some green salad 

  1. Wash the unpeeled potatoes. Boil for 15 mins. Drain. Once cooled enough to handle you should be able to hand peel the skins off. Set aside. During this rub the garlic halves around your casserole dish and repeat with the knob of butter. Place in fridge till needed.
  2. Remove the rind from the bacon. Slice into lardoons. Put in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Pat dry and put to one side.
  3. On a low heat melt the butter, once melted, sauté the onions and lardons for about 15 mins. Remove before being browned but do not brown. Pre-heat oven to 210 degrees Celsius
  4. Chop potatoes into slices. Place a layer on the base of your buttered casserole dish. Season with pepper. Pour on onion mix and cover with remaining potatoes.
  5. Heat the crème fraiche on a low heat for about thirty seconds and season with pepper. Once heated pour evenly over potatoes and onions. Layer cheese slices on top and season again. Place in oven for approx 20 – 30 until browned and bubbling. Serve with green salad and a liberal helping of white wine.   

 

We tucked in and enjoyed!

 

 

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Ponzi Dinner Party Scheme PART 2

Ponzi Dinner Party Scheme PART 2

Understandably I was more than esteemed and honoured when my friend Katy invited me to the initial series of charity Ponzi Scheme Dinner Parties. So with five others I arrived with a sense of intrigue at her flat, armed with a bottle of wine and a well used £5 note. After the usual Hellos and How do you do’s we all sat down at the dinner table and were given a brief discussion explaining the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust and its aims. Once informed we were ready to tuck in…and tuck in we did. 

Our host is one of two girls I know who have a fierce and much deserved reputation for holding a dinner party. I am fortunate to have taken part in many. The feast included an outstanding French onion soup followed by a beautiful beef bourguignon of which I did not have enough. But the real star of the show was Katy’s Lemony Apple Crumble Tart. It was definitely worth forgetting any self-imposed dietary restrictions regarding cream and puddings. It was everything it intended to be. The combination of cream, perfectly baked crumble, not too dry but not too soggy pastry base and the well seasoned and moist apple filling created not just a party, but a full on rave in my mouth. Quite simply I want more and I want it NOW! 

Great food and wine were abundant in equal measure and after some raucous parlour games and clearly hit for six, the night ended up with me and three beautiful friends on the dance floor of a local dancing establishment. Them demonstrating up most charm and grace whilst I attempted the robot looking like an unwanted cousin at a family bbq. 

This initiative is a great way to raise money and I look forward to having my own Ponzi Dinner Party soon. 

Katy’s Lemony Apple Crumble Tart 

More than enough for six 

You will need: 

Tart base: 

Shortcrust pastry (enough to line your tart tin) 

Crumble:

75g plain flour

75g demerara sugar

75g unsalted butter (softened)

zest of 1lemon (finely grated) 

Apple filling: 

6 apples (cored and peeled)

Finely grated zest and juice of one unwaxed lemon

55g brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 tbsp all purpose flour

1 tbsp caster sugar 

To serve:

Generous helpings of Crème fraiche

The zest of 1 lemon

The zest of 1 orange 

  1. Bring pastry to room temp and preheat oven to 200 Degrees Celsius
  2. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface, line tart tin, prick base with a fork, freeze for 15 mins and bake blind (bake weighted down for 12 mins then unweighted for a further 5 – 7 mins to dry out)
  3. Place flour, sugar, butter into a bowl and rib lightly between fingers until resembles fine breadcrumbs. Chill till needed
  4. Chop apples into chunks, place in a bowl and add the lemon zest, juice, sugar and spices. Sprinkle the base of the pastry with caster sugar arranging apples on top
  5. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over apples. Bake for 15 mins, reduce to 180 Degrees Celsius and bake for a further 30 mins. Whilst baking, mix the lemon and orange zest with crème fraiche so that it will be ready to serve with the tart once it is cooked.

“Once again my blackberry camera does not indicate to how amazing the tart was”

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Ponzi Dinner Party Scheme – raising money for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust

There are many things one would do for charity. Jump out of a plane, bungee jump from a hot air balloon, participate in an Ironman, cycle the length of Britain, run a marathon, run an ultra marathon, run a series of marathons in a desert, run a marathon in France or even fight a bear. But the rather clever committee members of the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust have come up with a novel and fun idea for those who want to raise money but without the hassle and physical exertion of fighting a French bear whilst cycling in a dessert. They have devised ‘The Charlie Waller Ponzi Dinner Party Scheme’. 

How does it work? 

Using the idea of a Ponzi Pyramid Scheme each member of the Trust is to host a dinner party for 7 – 10 guests. Each guest has to bring the rudimentary bottle(s) of wine and a £5 donation. Frivolities ensue. In the months that follow each guest is asked to continue the pyramid scheme by holding their own Ponzi dinner party, asking their guests to do the same in their turn and so on in perpetuity!

By using this pyramid selling technique the Trust hopes to raise £120,000 and as much awareness as possible. 

What is the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust? 

In 1997, Charlie Waller, a popular and successful 28 year old took his own life, much to the confusion and distraught of his friends and family. It turns out that Charlie had been silently suffering from depression. Charlie’s death highlighted how hard it is to diagnose depression and how little people know about mental health. 

To help combat this, Charlie’s family set up the Trust hoping to raise awareness of the signs and dangers of depression, reduce the stigma and encourage sufferers to seek help. 

How you can get involved 

Simples! 

  • Have your own Ponzi Dinner Party
  • Donate monies raised to the justgiving page below.
  • Email the trust on pyramid@ponzi.org.uk with a list of your guests. You will all then be put on a Ponzi ‘family tree’ where you will be able to monitor its growth online. 

Further Info  

www.cwmt.org or http://www.justgiving.com/CWMTponz 

My next post will be a post match analysis of the dinner with a recipe for an absolutely amazing apple crumble tart accompanied with a shoddy blackberry photo.

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Spicy Roast Parsnip Soup

Spicy Roast Parsnip Soup 

It is my belief that as much effort as possible should be made to produce a homemade supper most nights. Not necessarily a three course banquet but anything to make you feel full and a little proud that you made the effort. Please do not get me wrong, there should always be room for a takeaway in your mealtime repertoire, but, in my opinion, if you have the ingredients and it is not too close to bedtime you should always put in the graft and go for the healthier choice and most definitely cheaper option. 

It was this very debate I was having with myself on Tuesday. I had come home from work fairly late and particularly tired. My forage through the kitchen found some parsnips, some tomatoes, some onions and a well stocked spice cupboard. Next to the pretty much empty fridge lay the takeaway menus, the temptation was clear. On one shoulder I had an angel in chef whites telling me to man up, on the other I had a second clad in delivery boy overalls and a moped helmet whispering the promise of double decadence pizzas, curries and special fried rice.

Once again my saviour was the BBC Good Food website. A quick ingredient search led me to this fantastic recipe for a parsnip soup with a spicy twist. I am so chuffed that I made this. It certainly was a healthier option and saved me from what probably would have been an MSG cheese lined calorie fest. It was so simple to make, packed full of flavour and has definitely added to my arsenal for future dinner parties. I hope anyone who reproduces this liked it as much as I did. 

Spicy Roast Parsnip Soup 

Serves 4 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds ½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp mustard seeds

1 large onion , cut into 8 chunks

2 garlic cloves

700g parsnips (peeled and diced)

2 plum tomatoes  (quartered)

1.2 litres vegetable stock

1 tbsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper 

You will need: 

  1. Heat oven to 220 degrees celsius
  2. In a bowl, mix together the oil and spices
  3. In a roasting tin, cover parsnips with oil then roast for 30 mins
  4. Once roasted and tender, spoon into a blenders with half the stock and process until smooth.
  5. Pour mix into a pan with the remaining stock, season, bring to a gentle simmer, remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and arnish with a small pinch of cumin seeds. Serve with pleanty of toast.

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Two Little Tarts Cake Company

Word of mouth is a powerful tool; you could be the biggest conglomerate in the world, with the most attention grabbing advertising seen to man and an astronomical budget to suit, or you could be a small fledgling business placing an ad in your local rag, but, at the end of the day, it will be the word on the street that will make or break your reputation. It was this exact word that found me in the chilly but regal backwaters of Battersea on my way for a rendezvous at cupcake headquarters to meet Rebecca Smith and Sarah Rowan, the founders of Two Little Tarts Cake Company.

Considering it only started two months ago, the enterprise has gone from strength to strength. An offshoot from the already highly acclaimed The Game Birds catering, they specialise in bespoke cakes and teatime treats, the ethos being that they will do whatever you want and deliver it anywhere in London and the home counties. For example, having just finished a cow birthday cake they are now in the throes of designing a tank one. Both admit to a relatively limited knowledge of military hardware but relish the challenge of finding a suitable design. All this is also combined with planning a ‘countries of the world’ birthday party. It is clear these two love a challenge and I am reminded that when there is a theme – “we love it”. I am just impressed with how much they achieve in such a small, but impeccably organised kitchen. 

It is clear that Two Little Tarts is becoming a must have in the Lulu Guinness and UGG lined arsenal of  today’s upwardly social mobile yummy mummy, and no child’s party (birthday or teatime) is complete without one of their cakes. Unless you want that party to be below par; I imagine if Two Little Tarts had catered for any of my last 26 birthday parties they would have been decidedly more popular. It is quite hard to enjoy the magician pulling a rabbit out the hat on your own (probably my own fault for having a magician at my 25th). That aside, do not be mistaken, their remit does not just apply to birthdays, tea parties and wedding cakes. They have also had more saucy requests including ‘boob cakes’ and ‘a huge willy one for a hen do’. So, just to reiterate, they will do ‘whatever you want’. 

The girls themselves are as flamboyant as their creations and it is obvious they have a very relaxed exterior to an extremely efficient and professional work ethic. Clearly they have proven to be a successful team. They met whilst on a course at Leith’s Cookery School and have trained in the art of sugar-crafting, but what makes their cakes stand out is that they combine technical nous with natural artistic ability. I was fortunate enough to stuff my face with one of their carrot cake cupcakes topped with some yellow sugar ensconced delight and was completely enamoured. 

Having firmly wedged their foot in the door, they are taking the cake world by storm. Having first started selling their produce on a stall at a charity fair, they have had a steady flow of clients, even more so with their ever growing page on Facebook. Their portfolio is starting to feature shops, City Banks and West End art galleries. The fact that over the last two months they have made over 1,000 brownies for events and deliveries to local offices is testament to this. 

I am certainly a fan, but am struggling to find space on the bandwagon. Not only do they have loyal group of clients, friends and family, they also have a growing celebrity following. Of these who have tasted their cakes we have Cat Deeley, Delia Smith, Gok Wan, Sir Richard Branson, Rod Stewart and The Who. As former contestants on Gordon Ramsay’s Find Me a Fanny they I am sure they have no worries with handling the limelight.

All in all, I had a wonderful afternoon with them and would definitely recommend them for any of your cakey needs. But if were you, I would get in quick, as their stock is sure to rise.

Two Little Tarts Cake Company, Battersea, SW11 (02076223093)(rebecca.smith@twolittletarts.co.uk and sas.rowan@thegamebirds.com) (More pictures can be found on their Facebook profile too)

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