Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Cook House Supperclub - 28th August

Thursday 28th August 2014, 7.30pm - sold out

Cook House has been up and running for a grand total of two weeks now! It has been so busy and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. From now on I will be running regular Supperclubs from Cook House with changing seasonal feast menus. To kick this off we are hosting a special launch night Supperclub in the beautiful newly decorated space, a feast of summer, full of soused silver darlings, pickles and pates; sea trout, Scandi salads and summer puddings.

I have joined forces with Beth and Hannah of ‘Wildflower in Blume’ for this special launch evening, they are all about the styling… ‘We love flowers. We also love the finer details. We style weddings and events that create an atmosphere and tell your story. Our talents are broad, our enthusiasm endless.’ It promises to be a beautiful and tasty evening.

Tickets are available now, priced at £30, we will be serving a special welcome drink, a three course generous sharing feast and coffee, please byo other boozy drinks. You will be sent the final menu before you arrive so you can decide on your chosen tipple. As ever tickets go pretty quickly, please email to book your place and bring cash on the evening. You will be emailed asap if you have got a place…

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Cook House is opening...

The sun hits the front deck of Cook House as soon as it comes up over the river, it’s a lovely peaceful spot first thing in the morning,  sitting on the bench with a cup of  fresh pour over coffee.

This is my new kitchen in the Ouseburn that will be ready to welcoming visitors from 8.30am Wednesday 6th August. I have used the place previously for events, but have now taken on the space full time. Two converted shipping containers; a new oven, dishwasher, a lick of paint, some new furniture and a spot of dressing with bits I have been collecting and shoving in cupboards at home for years.

The doors will be open for breakfast and lunch, weekdays from 8.30am until 3.30pm, come and have a bite to eat. I will be there cooking away for supperclubs and events, testing recipes and writing menus.  A daily changing small menu of seasonal food that is local and tasty. The breakfast offering will include poached fruits, yoghurts and granolas, the occasional bacon sandwich and toast with honey from the Ouseburn bees.

A new garden is growing rapidly out the back, with a lovely deck which is dappled with sunshine as you sit and have lunch. There are French beans, spring onions, a selection of squashes, radishes, broad beans, courgettes, salad and herbs all making themselves ready for people’s plates.

The lunch menu at Cook House the through the summer months will be full of big salads, herbs, toasted nuts, crumbled cheeses, tasty dressings; as well as delicious homemade bagels and sandwiches, ham hocks with soft pease pudding, roast lemony chicken with homemade mayo, soft salt beef with sweet cucumber pickle.

We have some pop ups lined up with some really exciting regional chefs in the next few months, and we will also be running a food school programme, with interesting local folk showing you what they do so well. We have wine tasting, butchery and coffee skills lined up and available to book soon...

Have a look at the new website to find out more...

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lindisfarne Summer Dining

We were back up at Lindisfarne Castle at the weekend for the summer supperclubs. I love being on Holy Island at any time of year, it's such a beautiful part of the world whatever the weather. We had a mixed bag this time with glorious sunshine, a bit of a haar, torrential rain and various levels of wind...

Cooking in the castle kitchen seems to bring the place back to life, with tasty smells drifting down the corridors, visitors popping their head in and I pass time imagining who cooked in the kitchen before me. I bet there were some characters... I think that is one of my favourite things about working with the National Trust in these special locations, using places as they once were, rather than just feeling like you are in a museum. Welcoming our guests, drinks before dinner on the battlements, sitting down to dine, then relaxing in the Ship Room at the end of the night. I have begun to feel very at home there!

Tickets are still available for the Farnes Islands Summer Supperlcub on Saturday 9th August. Click here for full details...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Ricotta, Radish, Mint and Fennel Salad

I’m working on my salad repertoire... The menu, at my new venture Cook House, will be full of local seasonal flavour, huge delicious salads, salt beef bagels, roast chicken sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise, granola, stewed fruit, the occasional bacon sandwich, I’m nearly ready to show you the website... so watch this space...

This is a very simple salad I’ve been making for a while now, originally from the Polpo recipe book, I have free styled a bit. It’s really delicious. The radishes are my own, they are so easy to grow and I love the real kick of spice you get from home grown radishes, a much more powerful tasty version of the little bags in the supermarket. I’m also going to give homemade ricotta a go and try it with that... I’ll keep you posted.

These amounts will make one large plate of salad. Use a mandolin or a very sharp knife and thinly slice a big handful of radishes, take half a fennel bulb and thinly slice that too. Add everything to a large bowl. If you have some fresh radish leaves you can thinly slice the small ones and scatter them in, then add a large handful of roughly chopped mint. Add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of quarter of a lemon, add more to taste, and a pinch of salt and lots of black pepper. Toss the salad and scatter over a large plate. Then crumble half a pot of ricotta over the top of everything and drizzle over a little more olive oil...

This is delicious with spicy radishes, aniseed fennel and creamy ricotta, fresh mint and lemon, it’ll be on the menu soon, when I’m open and the thunder stops...

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Ouseburn Festival Feast

What a lovely day the Ouseburn Festival Feast turned out to be! The forecast said it was going to rain all day, but in the end there wasn't a single drop, the sun even came out at the end... It was a very busy tasty day, with lots of people picnicking, listening to the music and shopping for treats. I bought enough to last all week...Until next year, thanks to everyone who came along, and of course to the brilliant stall holders...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Ouseburn Festival Feast - Sunday 6th July

This weekend sees the return of the Ouseburn Festival and I am organising their food market once again... 20 stalls of food and drink will be down on Malmo Quay in the Ouseburn Valley on Sunday 6th July from 11am - 4pm. Freshly baked breads, pastries, fruit and vegetables, fudges, chocolates, Italian street food, traditional cakes, local sausages, pies, pickles and brownies... Need I say more!

Sit in the sunshine at our picnic site, browse the stalls, shop for amazing food and drink, listen to the live music, have lunch... Sounds lovely!

Elsewhere in the valley there will be parades, duck races, live music, cycle courses byThe Cycle Hub, children's activities at the Ouseburn Farm, craft stalls, pony rides, exhibitions, tours of the Victoria Tunnel and brewery tours! Come and spend the whole day...

Current stall line up for you to feast on!

The Feathers Inn
Carruthers and Kent
The French Oven
North East Organic Growers
Emily Botham Brownies
Marco Polo Street Food
Northumberland Sausage Company
La Petit Creperie
Yummy Things
La Fiesta Kitchen
Teasy Does It
Northumbrian Smokehouse
Sugar Down Bakery
David Kennedy @ Vallum
David Lawson Ceramics
Muddy Fingers Pottery
Electric East

Hope to see you there! Malmo Quay, Ouseburn Valley, Quayside (Opposite The Tyne pub)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Cook House coming along...

I've been forging ahead with my plans for Cook House; as well as travelling to London with a fridge on wheels to cook supper in a furniture shop, which was challenging to the extreme.

I thought I would share a few photos from Cook House to keep you up to date. I haven't been there much over the past week due to my Southern culinary challenge, and I've missed it. It's such a lovely peaceful place to spend time, especially when the sun is shining. I left Keith and Steve in charge of proceedings, and I now have decking, a plumbed in dishwasher, a store room ceiling, a lovely sliding panelled door, an oven that is nearly wired in and some new exterior lights... Just a few bits and pieces to go and I can start decorating and occupying the space, I'm excited to see it come together...

I've planted some of my new grow bags and have courgettes, french beans, spring onions, salad and broad beans all emerging. It is a little way to becoming a garden, the best part being that it fills with dappled sunshine through the trees every day at the moment, long may it continue...

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Pear Frangipane at Rochelle Canteen

So I found myself in London a couple of months ago walking over the Thames to work. What began as a slightly farfetched idea for a spot of kitchen experience had become reality and here I was about to start a week’s work at Rochelle Canteen, a lovely little place just off Arnold Circus, E2. It’s a canteen, open for breakfast and lunch, based in the old bike shed of a former Victorian school, now home to Shoreditch creative types. They also cater for events large and small, with an often high end client list, and are owned and run by Margot Henderson, whose husband Fergus is responsible for St John group and her business partner Melanie Arnold. The pair have been part of the London culinary scene for 20 years and more, initially starting out above The French House in Soho, one of my favourite spots for a glass of wine...

I arrived to some confusion, but once everyone realised who everyone was, I was given uniform and set to work. Washing nettles being the first task, but a good one to begin with as I could settle down and survey my surroundings. A simple, open, bright white shed space that is half kitchen, half dining room, with a lean to open air kitchen prep area out the back. They have their own little garden of raised beds growing salad and herbs and with the sun shining, the breeze blowing through and plants growing around you it was a lovely place to work. I was pretty happy standing there washing the nettles and smiled to myself that I was actually doing this.

Standing in Rochelle Canteen kitchen surrounded by their team of chefs it was easy to feel that I knew very little at all. I was there to learn though, how they did everything, even simple tasks like making mayonnaise or dressings. Everyone has their own method and I wanted to see how other people work. How they organised themselves (very well), how long they kept things, when they ordered stuff, how they reused leftovers, recipes, ideas, presentation; I wanted to know everything. So I set to it... Cut, chop, prep, observe, clean, watch, learn...

Anna Tobias is the head chef at Rochelle Canteen, she runs a tight little ship there, confidently and efficiently sending out tasty, interesting dishes everyday as well as catering for events. While I was there, there was a day long feeding of some fashion folk - which had an afternoon tea, picnic feel, all prawn cocktail, quails eggs, sausage rolls, poached chicken and cucumber sandwiches - and an elegant birthday party for thirty.

My first day’s work over, we all sat down for staff lunch, which included leftover rabbit faggots, (so good) mash, salad, lemony roast chicken, followed by some leftover blood orange sorbet and golden syrup biscotti. Well you don’t get much better than that in my books. I was (nervously) having a wonderful time.

The following days brought scone making, mango chutney to go with ham or kedgeree, pickled prunes, a ham and parsley terrine, a delicious deep onion, thyme and Lancashire cheese quiche and sausage rolls. I learnt new things with all of my jobs; techniques, recipes and new ideas.

One day a delicious looking roast chicken with crème fraiche and tarragon stuffed under its skin, roast to golden wonderfulness, a rib of amazing pink beef with horseradish and beetroot salad the next. They have a friendly, interesting and enthusiastic team, who were always chatting away about how they did things, no steadfast rules and always keen to hear each other’s ideas. They had collectively worked in some pretty prestigious kitchens around London from The River Cafe to Quo Vadis and St John.

Each day I left and found an interesting spot to write about my day. My memory is definitely not the best so it was important to note it all down before it slipped away. We were usually done by about 4.30pm and it was lovely to sit in the sun with a glass of wine or a coffee. I frequented all the Shoreditch spots, Allpress Coffee one day, Albion Cafe another and the Ace Hotel the next. I was the only one without a macbook in the Ace Hotel, I wrote with a pen in a book and people looked at me; but on my way out of the super cool lobby looking over their shoulders I realised they were all just on Facebook anyway...

The kitchen turned out some delicious food over the week, a rich black cuttlefish stew, a lovely chicken salad with lovage, capers and soft leeks; witch sole with a tartar sauce that is better than any tartar sauce I’ve ever had... full of tarragon, capers, chopped eggs, rich homemade mayo; and this lovely pear frangipane tart which I’ve had a go at myself...

Make your own pastry to start, it is very simple and so much tastier... In a food processor blitz 175g of plain flour with 115g of cold butter cut into cubes until you get a fine breadcrumb, then add 50g of icing sugar, 2 egg yolks and a pinch of salt and blend until it comes together in a ball, it’ll only be a few seconds, be careful not to overwork it. Then form it into a ball, wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest. This might be more pastry than you need for one tart, but it will keep for a week in the fridge and also freezes well.

Peel two pears, something firm like a conference pear, and add them to a pan with 100g of caster sugar and 750ml water and simmer for about 20 minutes until soft. Leave them to cool in the syrup. Keep this and use it in cocktails! Delicious...

For the tart itself heat your oven to 220°C. Roll out your pastry, and gently line your tart tin, pressing the pastry into the edges. Leave it to rest in the fridge for half an hour, then line with baking paper and blind bake for 20 minutes, remove the beans (I use dried chickpeas) and leave to cool.

Using a food processor cream 250g of softened butter with 250g of caster sugar until light and fluffy, then add 250g of ground almonds, I like to grind these myself so you can keep some a bit chunkier, keep a handful back if you’re doing this to add texture. Then add 5 eggs one at a time, incorporating each one before you add the next so you don’t curdle, then add 50g of plain flour and mix thoroughly, adding in the courser almonds at the end. Fill the pastry case with the frangipane mixture. Then core the pears and cut into quarters, arranging them evenly over the mixture, so every slice gets a bit... Bake for 40 minutes at 180°C until golden and firm to touch.

I have tried a few different versions of this, some are very cake like and light, others use more of a dense almond paste, this recipe was the most consistent for me, but I’m still experimenting. It is delicious and almondy with sweet pears and buttery pastry, serve with crème fraiche...