Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Allotment

I still have my allotment in Jesmond, a few people asked about it recently so I thought I would give you a very brief update. I've had it for four or five years I think, and have still never managed to get it totally under control even after all that time. This year is definitely the best so far though. It is presentable, and there are some things growing; last year I just managed presentable and kind of forgot to grow much, but I'm getting there. You know what they say... slow and steady wins the race...



Beetroot coming along well, both yellow and red varieties...



Aliums and our vine, it actually produces grapes, but probably not enough for even a glass of wine. The man who had the allotment before me planted it as Jesmond's first vineyard, but I don't think it quite went to plan...


Here they are just beginning... we might need a bit more sun.


Not a very good photo, but these are my asparagus peas, a very old type of pea dating back to the 1500's apparently. It produces a small winged pod that you eat that tastes like a cross between early asparagus and young peas... funnily enough. I'm hoping it survives as I'm intrigued to try it...





The apples, strawberries and newly planted borage are coming along well. I've also got courgettes, purple sprouting broccoli, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes, broad beans, parsnips, cauliflowers, onions, leeks and nasturtiums all trying to survive...

Monday, 29 June 2015

Cook House by James Byrne

The morning I picked all the elderflowers James Byrne came round to Cook House to take some photos. It all worked out pretty well as big bowls of flowers hanging around the place really brighten things up. James came to a supperclub many moons ago when Cook House didn't even have a name or a dishwasher... he took some lovely photos on that occasion and I've followed his career since. His work is always beautiful and it was a pleasure to have him back at Cook House snapping away, I don't even mind the photo of myself which is an incredibly rare occurrence...















Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Elderflower Cordial

It doesn't feel right somehow, telling you how to make Elderflower Cordial while I have the heating on, rain beating against the window and am watching the fence nearly blow down in the ever present wind. I don't previously remember a year this windy; every day my container doors are blowing open and closed at Cook House and generally annoying the hell out of me. Where is summer? 

A man came in the other morning for breakfast and remarked that he thought we'd had it, that brief spell in April, or was it May... and it filled me with sadness that that might actually be true; because all I'd been focusing on was that at some point, it must get nice, at some point perhaps I could go out without a coat on?


It rained nearly all day at Jesmond Food Market on Saturday, but on a very positive note that didn't put people off at all. It wasn't as busy as last month but it was still full of people shopping and eating all day, only this time they were wearing rain coats and were under umbrellas. I admire the British spirit, a bit of rain won't keep me from cheese and pies... oh no...

Back to elderflowers, lovely summery elderflowers... It surprises me each time I pick them just how much of elderflower they smell, it's really powerful. I picked a big bag full on the way down to Cook House the other morning, about 20 heads, that should make about 2 litre bottles of cordial. They are best gathered on a warm dry day, so good luck with that; and also when not fully opened yet, just on their way. The ones around the Ouseburn are pretty much spot on at the moment.


Pick out any insects that might be lurking and put the flowers in a big bowl, grate in the zest of 3 lemons and then cover with 1.5 litres of boiling water. Then leave the whole lot to sit over night. The next morning strain through a piece of muslin into a pan and add the juice of the 3 lemons and 1kg of sugar. Bring it all to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.


Pour the cordial into sterilised bottle and it's ready to use. So far I have used it in a salad dressing, as a cordial with fizzy water, in a cocktail with gin and soda which was delicious, and reduced a bit to drizzle over a lemon cake... 


I also experimented with leaving the elderflowers to infuse for a couple of days, and ended up with a really dark cordial, that tastes a lot heavier, I think I prefer the light bright one, but I might just be being deceived by the colour. Have a go and see what you think?

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Lindisfarne Summer Supper

I love Lindisfarne Castle. Spending time in the kitchen, with the sun shining in off the sea, chopping, cooking and preparing supper, listening to the birds nesting outside and the call of the seals on the wind; it's a very special place to spend time. I'd love to live there, which I guess is pretty unlikely, so I'll settle for the next best thing and continue to pretend it's mine on the occasional evening and invite some folk over for supper.




It was a lovely evening. The sun came out for the guests arrival and we had drinks outside, watching the seals by telescope over on Ross Sands. The guests had a little tour of the castle with Steve and Daniel from the National Trust, I could hear them laughing and chatting as they wandered around the castle thoroughly enjoying themselves, as I finished off supper...





They started with fresh pea pods and a chilled cucumber soup made with yoghurt, herbs and walnuts topped with hot smoked salmon. Followed by a smorgasbord of poached lobster, dressed crab, soused mackerel, pickled quails eggs and a salad of sea aster and samphire.




The main course was a slow roast shoulder of lamb with peas, broad beans and asparagus topped with pea shoots, chive flowers and wild garlic flowers. Served with a delicious date and mint jam, jersey royals and baby carrots and turnips. They all loved it, which was a huge relief...


The evening ended with little rhubarb and mead trifles, big bowls of fresh strawberries and shortbreads with coffee. Everyone was chatting away in the Ship Room, quite at home in their castle. Lovely guests and a lovely evening all round, aside from the washing up...



Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Lindisfarne Castle Summer Suppers Return...


May and June see the return of a very exciting collaboration between The Grazer and the National Trust. Last summer we hosted four incredible evenings at Lindisfarne Castle and on the Farne Islands. The sun shone, guests enjoyed their amazing surrounds, and ate and drank into the night. We are offering you the opportunity to experience this once again, with two Summer Supperclubs at Lindisfarne Castle.



You could find yourself driving over the causeway to supper at Lindisfarne Castle. Arriving on the battlements to canapés and aperitifs, looking out over the islands and castles of the Northumberland coast… A personal tour through the rooms of Lindisfarne castle, your own private residence for the evening. Supper will be served on the battlements if it is sunny or in the beautiful Ship Room; your view for the evening is the sun slowly sinking over the Cheviots.


Once in a lifetime dining experiences in a totally unique location. There will only be two events with a limited number of 20 places available at each:

Saturday 30th May 6pm – Tickets Available

Saturday 13th June 6pm – Tickets Available

(The event will run from approximately 6 -10pm, exact times will be confirmed according to tides)

Tickets for these once in a lifetime dining events are £99 per person and can be booked by phoning Lindisfarne Castle on 01289 389902. Prices include unique private access to Lindisfarne Castle, private tour of castle, telescope tours of the coastline, history and nature talks from the National Trust and food introductions from The Grazer.

The evenings dining includes aperitifs and canapés, a set four course sharing menu including chilled cucumber and yoghurt soup, dressed crabs, langoustine, slow cooked Northumberland spring lamb, samphire, shoots, flowers, plentiful puddings, matched wines, coffees, teas and treats.




Monday, 4 May 2015

A Lunch with Barbour - Seafarer Collection Launch

A few weeks ago I found myself setting up for lunch surrounded by an amazing paraphernalia of ship wreck items. Giant wooden ladies looked down on me and huge Wallace and Gromit style lifebelts with attached pantaloons dangled from the ceiling.


Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade Museum is an amazing place. I hadn't even known it was there until Sarah from Barbour rang me suggesting we put on a lunch there; to launch their new Seafarer collection. It was a perfect spot, looking out over the mouth of the Tyne, a beautiful wooden clapper board building built in 1887. Inside it is full of tragic stories and wonderful artifacts; everything that has ever been washed up from ship wrecks dating back to 1864. John showed us round, with a story to match every lamp, chest and treasure.




The Barbour guests arrived into the base of the watch tower on a beautiful sunny morning, looking out to sea, with tea served from a giant ships tea pot salvaged from a shipwreck. While we prepared lunch a fashion show took place in the main hall, there were models running around, directors, people filming the fashion and us preparing the food in a tiny galley kitchen. It was a very enjoyable morning.


I had designed a nautical table, with blue and white plates, spring bulbs potted up in stripey Breton pie pots, paper boats and lemons with tiny sails decorating the table; I even threw on a few beach stones I collected up at Lindisfarne.



The menu was suitably nautical too, most of the guests were from outside of the area, London, Scotland and Europe, and I thought it was important to showcase produce we have on our doorstep here in Northumberland. They started with a Craster Kipper and Potato Soup with Chives, followed by a platter of dressed north sea crab, poached lobster, homemade mayonnaise, an apple herb and cucumber salad, spring chicken terrine, devilled eggs and other bits and bobs. Finishing with a blood orange and lemon posset with butter biscuits. It all went down very well which was a relief, I had been having sleepless nights...




I'll definitely be back to the museum, I'd love to hold another lunch there, I think people would love it. Thanks to all the lovely Barbour folk as well for bringing it all together and getting me involved, it was a lovely memorable day.




Photos are a selection from Barbour, myself and Rachel Phipps, you can read Rachel's lovely blog post about the day here...