Saturday, 31 March 2012

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea

I don't know about you, but my mother always told me not to play with my food. Quite a difficult feat to perform this week when we were invited to a Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel in Central London. The 5 Star hotel is serving a surreal afternoon tea in the stunning Phillp Hicks designed Courtyard Garden.
So with our best foot forward we tumbled down the rabbit hole to join the Alice in Wonderland inspired gastronomic adventure. Quite a strange scene to witness at first with tables of adult diners giggling, sucking on lollipops and swigging from magical potion bottles. 
The 'Drink me' potion had to be my favorite part of the tea. As you drink, the flavours change.
Very clever and great fun!



Queen of Hearts Strawberries and Cream Mousse

Passion fruit Jelly, Coconut Pana-cotta & Exotic Foam

Chocolate & Coffee Layered Sponge Cake

will turn your mouth from hot to cold

explodes with a single bite

Served with strawberry preserve and clotted cream

Selection of Artisan Teas & Coffee


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Chiswick House Camellia Festival

Beautiful dazzling rays of spring sunshine enticed me to spend the afternoon in the historic grounds of Chiswick House to view their collection of Camelias as part of their 2012 festival.

The Neo-Palladian villa set in 65 acres is reputed to be one of the finest examples in London built by Lord Burlington in 1729 to house his vast collection of art acquired from his fashionable European Grand Tour.  Lord Burlington also resided at Burlington House on Piccadilly, today the Royal Academy which I visited last week to see David Hockneys latest exhibition.

The Camelia festival is a celebration of the over thirty historic Camellias, some planted 200 years ago and considered to be one of the most important collections in the world housed in the newly restored 300ft long Conservatory and includes one of the only two surviving ‘Middlemist’s Red’ in the world.

Below are some snapshots of some of the flowers on display. Whilst growing several camelias in our garden I didn't quite appreciate the diverse range and I have fallen for Camelias once more. Coco Chanel knew all along with her great love for the flower. If its good enough for CC its good enough for me.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Squid Ink Sunday

Its Sunday and a visit to the trusty local farmer's market was in store for culinary inspiration this morning. My favourite fishmonger had just arrived with a beautiful catch of glistening squid landed in the pretty fishing town of Looe in Cornwall.

I knew I had a recipe that I had saved for Squid Ink Risotto which I could twist to go with spaghetti. So todays late lunch turned in Spaghetti al Nero Seppia with a Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper sauce.

I tried to crisp up some fresh spinach to add a cunchy seaweed element to the dish but it did not go to plan. So instead i sat the blanched squid on a bed of shredded fresh spinach without the gold leaf from the original recipe. Who has gold leaf in their cupboard I ask you?

The original recipe image had a red puree/sauce surrounding the pasta without details so I blended some skinned roasted red peppers and tomatoes, reduced with a garlic, white wine and dressed with a little truffle oil.
Bon appetito!


Friday, 23 March 2012

Spring Forward

A quick walk round the garden this afternoon awarded me with a bounty of botanical treasures. I love picking a selection of fresh flowers and greenery to bring into the house at this time of year to scatter indulgently across a table whilst having tea.
Its so easy to ignore the beauty of little patches of self sown common flowers scattered here and there as well as cultivated garden plants.They all deserve to be admired even the much maligned dandelion has its merits.
Get out into your garden this weekend and pick some daisies if nothing else to brighten up your day.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Japan Gelato Day

Sunday brought us typically bracing March temperatures, nevertheless we braved the seasonally snappy weather in the shadow of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Central London after being invited to sample the latest offerings at Gino Gelato who were celebrating the start of Hanami.
Hanami is the traditional Japanese Cherry blossom viewing season which only lasts a couple of weeks whilst the 'Sakura' or Cherry trees are in flower.

Gino's got together with 'Masterchef' contestant Aki Matsushima and champion gelato maker Palmiro Bruschi to create ten delicious Japanese-themed gelati and sorbetti and were on hand to talk about their creations. I've never seen such frenzied ice cream consumption with queues stretching way out into Adelaide street. The great thing about the event was that there was a tasting station outside enabling you to try before going inside to purchase.

We managed to sample most of the gorgeous flavours on offer with Plum Wine & Honey Sorbet and Red Miso & Caramel coming out tops. I did think that they might have tried wasabi and ginger flavours but they were nowhere to be seen. I'm already looking forward to Gino's next special event. Great fun, lets hope they make Japan Gelato Day an annual event. Next year I'll pack my thermals for this one!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Come into the parlour!

Near a misty stream in Ireland in the hollow of a tree
Live mystical, magical leprechauns who are clever as can be
With their pointed ears, and turned up toes and little coats of green
The leprechauns busily make their shoes and try not to be seen
Only those who do believe have seen these irish elves
And if we become believers we can see them for ourselves.

We've finally finished and despatched the last of our St Patrick's Day luxury wreaths this morning. Time for a well deserved hearty breakfast and an irish coffee.

Have a great St Patricks Day. Sláinte!

For further informatiom regarding our custom wreaths pop over and visit our website.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Lapsang Venison

I have been hanging onto a recipe from the Telegraph  that I finally got round to giving it a try this week. The local farmers market had some wonderful looking Venison in on Sunday, so Venison loin with lapsang souchong tea, anise carrots, horseradish and chive dumplings and a carrot purree it was then. I emerged out the other side with something resembling a cross between the Telegraph's picture and a regular Mummy dinner featuring an anaemic dumpling. I had hoped for a Michelin style arrangement but hunger set in and two halves of a baby Chanterey carrot just wouldn't do. Oh, just incase you weren't paying attention or your eyes glazed over! My dish on the left, Telegraph to the right! x

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Windlesham Arboretum

The warm early spring rays of sunshine permitted us an afternoon of carefree moseying around the grounds of Windlesham Arboretum in Surrey yesterday. Perhaps a week or two early to appreciate the foilage explosion that is waiting to happen but you can practically hear the awakenings all around with the bare bones of the gardens just waiting to be transformed.
Created by conservationist Major William Spowers, the estate on which the arboretum sits houses a diverse mix of follies, bridges, lakes, monuments and even a private chapel.
Said to have been inspired by landscape architect Capability Brown's grand sweeping vistas at Chatsworth, the repeated references to Browns hand surpise you at almost every turn. It certainly lacks the size and grandeur Brown is famed for but uses clever trickery by weaving you through the estate to view the scattered follies from varying angles making the grounds seem larger than they are.
Hidden from the world on a rather awkward turning off the M3, with only the odd dog walker utilising the public right of way across the land. I will be returning to this peaceful corner of Surrey to watch the seasons unfold.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

I'm just mad about Saffron

With the emergence of the Crocus' in the garden at this time of year I was encouraged to use Saffron in a wholesome warming dish to conteract the damp, drizzly March weather outside. With images of the exotic spice in my head, I trundled off in the rain this morning to the local farmers market in search of inspiration.

Upon entering I was greeted by a pescatarians dream of a stall piled high with fresh crystal eyed 'fishies' in all shapes and sizes. I instantly knew I had to cook a Bouillabaisse inspired dish laced with saffron.

Armed with my catch of John Dory, Sea Bass, Squid, Crayfish, Mussels and few Langoustine I scuttled back home and an hour or so of rattling saucepans ensued. The great thing about Bouillabaisse is that it doesn't matter which fish or seafood you use, it's all about having the freshest fish you can get. There are so many different recipes, I like to make it with herbs fresh from the garden and a generous splash of Pernod and Cognac. Served with a crostini or large chunk of bread on the side along with a homemade spicy Rouille. Bon appetit.