Project Food Blog

Sunday Lunch for 30

Last Sunday we had friends over for food and drinks... we started at 1pm and finished about 1am the following morning... well done to all our friends... such stamina!!
As mentioned in my Winter Wedding post, I had already decided on a similar buffet to the reception, minus the Swan Ice Sculpture!

We had 2x  1.5 kilo joints of Roast Pork and Crackling.... I had defrosted them the night before but NOT left them long enough to dry the skin,which is the key to successful crackling..... So I borrowed my daughter's Christmas Hairdryer and my top tip now for the BEST crackling is to dry out the scored skin with a hair dryer on a low heat... the skin becomes lighter in colour once the moisture has gone. I'm told by one of my friends, Mark, who is a chef at Williams F1 Head Quarters... that the pork was perfect... high praise indeed!
We also had freshly baked bread buns, home made Apple Sauce with lots of Brandy in it, loads of different cheeses and  pâtés, an assortment of oatcakes and crackers, pickles, friends' homemade chutneys, fruit, Christmas cake, and of course the ubiquitous (at least for us) Mulled Wine Trifles (again!! ) Mark had 3 ... need I say more! I'm sure that you could do a similar Summer version with sparkling white or rosé wine, and something like cassis or elderflower cordial. I know we will all enjoy the research! Let us know if you already have a recipe!

Cook's Nips and Plumbing Tips

A very Happy Christmas to everyone! Our day started very leisurely, I had everything under control despite the sciatica, until I heard a tirade of expletives emitting  from my husband, as he'd decided to pop upstairs and do a quick bit of floorboard nailing before present opening. I'd just put the turkey in the oven, and was intending to sit down for half an hour, open the rest of our cards and have myself a sneaky glass of sherry..... but no.... instead my beloved had in his own words, 'ruined Christmas...'

Oh dear, I thought to myself, as I hobbled upstairs to see a recreation of the Little Dutch Boy with his finger in the Dyke before my very eyes.... when you put a nail through a hot water pipe it does spurt rather!
My eldest chewed up chewing gum which we stuck in the hole temporarily until we could find a more lasting solution. The in laws had also just called to say they were nearly with us....
Luckily, because of my current decrepitude, I'd kept Christmas dinner elegant, luxurious but above all... simple! I had all the water I needed already in pans, and all I really needed to do was assemble the Seafood Platter.... so while Matt battled away upstairs... I'm not ashamed to say that I still made time for my sneaky nip of sherry before everyone arrived.

We ate....

Seafood Platter of Smoked Salmon, King Prawns and Lobster (already cooked by the fantastic people at The Fish Society, they have an excellent reputation and an ethical approach to their business.)

This was served with freshly baked bread and Quick Hollandaise Sauce (Prepared ahead of time.)

Organic Turkey Crown from our Lithuanian friends (I did this for my 40th... I know it's a bit of a cheat but so easy, the meat is so moist and you don't have days of left overs.)
Home Made Cranberry Sauce
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts
Roasted Root Vegetables
Roasted Parsnips with Parmesan
Cauliflower Cheese made with Very Easy Cheese Sauce
Roast Potatoes
Pigs in Blankets
Extra Tasty Gravy
Chestnut and Cranberry Stuffing
Steamed Asparagus

Mulled Wine Trifle (The highlight of the dinner for me!)
Christmas Pudding with my Grandma's recipe for Cumberland Rum Butter

PS The rubber that was jubilee clipped over the hole has held fast til we get a plumber sorted, and Christmas Dinner in my opinion was perfect! Hope yours was too!

Pot Luck Supper

I'm having dinner with a group of amazing women that I met on a leadership course back in January. We are all from different backgrounds, professions and lifestages, but all bonded really well, and continue to see and support each other.

It is our Christmas lunch this week and Ana has decided to host the event (good thinking, she is very pregnant!). As she is a native New Yorker, she came up with the idea of a pot luck supper. We are all going to bring one dish each and between us compile a feast. Here are the ideas so far:

Smoked salmon appetisers and a crisp white wine

Warm winter salad of rocket, avocado, bacon and toasted almonds

Rhubarb and Cardamom Fool

Cheeseboard and Port.

As you can see, we are missing a main course option here. Any suggestions gratefully received!

Winter Wedding

We were invited to a very glamourous and contemporary wedding reception last night, and even though I was unable to hit the dance floor (a great disappointment let me tell you) I still managed to have a grand time.The venue was absolutely gorgeous, set deep in the heart of The Cotswolds in a village called Lower Slaughter. It was on old country house called Washbourne Court, a former Eton school crammer, complete with olde worlde Cotwold charm on the outside, and a modern and stylish interior. There were roaring fires, unexpected little inglenooks to sit and chat,  and even cute little cottages for the guests to stay in.

Clearly where food is concerned, I am always on the hunt for inspiration, and was excited when they declared the buffet open. The attention to detail was superb, simple but extremely well presented and well executed.And again another idea I shall be using over Christmas as I hobble around!

We had Roast Pork and Crackling, apple sauce, home baked bread rolls and a huge assortment of cheeses, pickles, grapes and crackers, followed by gorgeous chocolate wedding cake. Delicious!


When you think you are sorted, you have done the shopping, worked out the menus, invited the people... the unexpected sometimes happens!
Just my luck to be struck down with a disc prolapse in my spine (it's agony I tell you!) and be looking forward to a Christmas of entertaining and of course cooking....

(And why do conditions like Lumbago and Sciatica sound vaguely reminiscent of things we consumed in the school canteen? ... this is not a comedy ailment!)

Shall we cancel, my husband asks anxiously....

Hell No!

Keep reading to find out how I manage to produce festive meals for friends and family with minimal effort.

Any tips anyone...?

Good Times!

We went to a fabulous gathering yesterday. It was everything a catered for party should be. Simple, and seemingly effortless, although I'm sure behind the scenes there was a lot of careful orchestration and organisation!
The canapes were delicious and kept appearing at just the right moment, the wine flowed at just the right rate, and the actual food to keep us all going later on in the evening was easy to eat, delicious and again arrived at just the right time.
There were 30 guests in all, and we ate beautifully presented smoked salmon and dill blinis, lamb koftas with mint dip, risotto balls with chili dipping sauce, red onion tartlets, miniature raspberry cheesecakes, and strawberry shortcakes with cream. There was also what I term fork food for later... (you can balance the plate on your knee or hold in one hand and eat with just a fork..)  which was equally delicious. Chicken and leek pie in a white wine sauce, lentil and butternut squash pie with mashed potato, and a really tasty shepherd's pie. All served with tiny new potatoes, carrots and green beans....
Later on still there was a delicious cheese board, coffee, tiny mince pies and delicious little marzipan topped fruit cakes.

Having experienced how simply and yet how perfectly Sunday's party was, I shall be committing the variety and quantities of food to memory, for future reference!

Well done to Jean for hosting such a fabulous soiree, and thanks to Encore, the caterers for making the afternoon so perfect!

Wallace, Gromit and Gaza

Without wishing to get political here, which would not be appropriate, I wanted to share something with you which is relevant especially at this time of year, and perhaps just make people think a little deeper about our world picture. On the way to my mother in law's party, we missed the turn off the M25 and ended up at Clackett Lane Services in Kent. The car park was heaving, full of ambulances carrying medical supplies. There were lots of people with banners proclaiming 'Viva Palestine Convoy'. There was a huge brightly decorated articulated lorry with among other designs a large picture of Wallace and Gromit painted on it  Much of it was done in a Banksy style, and as it transpired the lorry had come from Bristol, home both to Aardman Animation and the notorious Banksy.

'What are they doing Mum?' my youngest asked. I explained about the conflict in Gaza as best I could to an 8 year old, who then became very quiet and pensive. We explained where Bethelehem and Jerusalem were, and that there was a lot of fighting, and a lot of innocent people were being hurt and killed. She said she couldn't understand why they couldn't talk to each other and sort their problems out. Is that such a simplistic view?

It was very moving to see so many people mobilised into action, and to travel so far to help. I have added their twitter account to the blog, please have a read if you can.

I also include a link to the Institute for Middle Eastern Understanding, where there is a very interesting section on food and cooking in Gaza.

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas...

Potjie, or A Murderous Weekend in the Country

Last weekend we went to a fabulous place called Eynsham Hall. It was a company event, and it was great to meet the other half's work mates,  quite a few of whom are from South Africa. The meal was great, interspersed with fatal blows to the head (poor Tom) and gunshots... our table wasn't so hot at identifying the killer... we named someone who sadly had already bitten the dust! As the venue was a former Police Training College this was a tad ironic. 

I had a great time meeting lots of people I had heard much about but never met before, and on our table we had Cameron (from Edinburgh) Nicky (a film maker and fellow Geordie) plus Dan and Danesh from South Africa. We all got chatting and I happened to mention that I'd worked with someone from South Africa at one of my old schools.

We got talking about food (of course) and I asked if they knew of the dish Poike, as my former colleague from SA had given me a recipe for a stew that I knew by that name. Danesh got a little nostalgic, although he said that it was spelled with a 'J' which got me very confused (hey, people were dying by this point) and said that his recipe didn't have chicken in it....  

SO.... I have researched the dish further as I was quite curious by the local differences which so often happen across large land masses.
It seems that this dish is uniquely South African. It is defined as a friendly food, to be enjoyed by rich or poor, young and old, city-dwellers and country folk, needing only one’s imagination when it comes to selecting the ingredients. (Our kind of recipe!)

It is also  the ideal food to serve to a crowd of friends. (So perfect for this blog!)
Potjie (pronounced Poy-Key)  is traditionally made around an open fire and is always to be consumed in the company of good friends and good beer! In SA it has had a revival of late, and is reportedly more popular than having a barbecue. 

I have made it many times and although my version may not be the most authentic as I am clearly not from South Africa, the recipe I follow and now share with you is one that has been in Bett’s family for many years. See what you think! And thank you Betts for the introduction to such a great stew!