Project Food Blog

Our favourite recipe

So this one is our ultimate recipe, you just take one moose, and a punnet of ripe strawbs. Hull the strawbs, de-bone the moose, and … oh okay, but we nearly had you there, right?
Happy April Fools Day and Happy Birthday to Hospitality Inc founder Lucy!

Kath xxxx

That ain't no pie, lady!

My dear friend Kent in San Francisco has just become a fan of this blog. It would be safe to say that Kent is a man who enjoys his nosh. (He once crashed a car when he saw a sign across the road for fried chicken, and instinctively veered towards it.) We don't get to see our American friends much any more (miss you Erin, Mike, Kristen, Locknecks et al) – even less so since we all had the babies and life changed. But when we do, we always build in a good amount of gourmet experiences.

The last time that we stayed in SF, me and Kent decided to cook a meal together for all of our friends. We wanted to make it a typically British affair, and so he took me to a supermarket where they had a British aisle. It was hilarious to see what home delights could be found across the pond. Suffice to say that according to this American retailer, our nation's culinary contribution consists of Marmite, Bisto, Tetley Teabags and Lime Marmalade. But I for one was pretty happy to find the Bisto, as I made a retro jug up to serve with this Shepherds Pie.

So, Shepherds Pie. The Americans loved the name. They were expecting something a little more, well, pie like though. Of course they all thought it was hilarious tht this pie contained no shepherds and was not covered with any pastry. But it's our language, and we shall do what we like with it, I reckon!

The reason that this dish was such as success that night was that it's so easily adaptable for vegetarians or vegans. We simply made two large pots of the mince, one with 1kg best lamb mince, and one with 1kg soya mince. Here's what else we added to each pot.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peelend and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large glass good red wine
2 beef or vegetarian stock cubes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 large glass water
1 bouquet garni

We fried off the vegetables and mince in the oil, then added all other ingredients and simmerered for 1 1/2 hours.

We boiled 2 kg potatoes and mashed with plenty of butter, milk and a little nutmeg. We poured the mince into two shallow bowls, topped with the mash, and baked in the oven for 45 minutes on a low heat.

We then served it with steamed vegetables and plenty of bisto gravy!

Cheat's Pumpkin Ravioli

I may have mentioned already that we are getting a lodger. The girls are excited because they sound very exciting and exotic... and having checked her out on Facebook, also very beautiful!! Oh, and Italian...

I love making people feel welcome, and think that the medium of food is a very powerful introduction into one's home and and family, hence the practicing of Italian dishes. (The salt crusted sea bass was lovely BTW...) 

I have also recently discovered a fantastic local Italian wholesaler, run by a family from Puglia. They open their doors on a Saturday morning to the public, and display an array of goodies to try. Recently I have bought sage pasta, anchovies, the most delicious Parmesan, squid ink something or other and lots of olives. Oh and wine. Lots of wine....

I have also been trying out some quick and easy, yet still reasonably impressive meals to prevent Dilette from getting homesick....Tonight, the secret method of QUICK ravioli made from sheets of fresh lasagne...

Did you make this Pumpkin Ravioli yourself? Yes I did. (Did you make the pasta? No I did not...)

Definitely DELICIOUS and definitely NOT a disaster, for anyone following us on Twitter.

I ravioli della zucca erano molto saporiti!

Porridge – the healthy power breakfast!

I've been reading a lot about the negligible nutritional qualities of most big brand boxed cereals recently, and so have vowed to try and find alternative breakfasts at least half of the week. This morning, we'd run out of bread, so plans for sausage sandwiches (made with Irish sausages from The Co-op) will have to wait until tomorrow. So today was porridge day. Here's how we serve it in our house (smiley faces optional)…

– Speed is of the essence in the mornings (two full time working parents, one girl at school and one at nursery) – but we loathe instant porridge. For a start, it's more like dust than a proper porridge oat. Secondly, these varieties often have unnecessary nasties added. So we opt for thick whole flakes - they only take 5 minutes to cook.
- we don't have a microwave (don't like 'em, never needed 'em) so cook the oats on the hob in a large pan and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon
- we like half milk, half water for a creamy finish - and soya milk is really good in porridge (plus cuts down the amount of mucus-producing dairy food that your family are ingesting)
- we like a drop of sweet stuff on our porridge (although it always brings back memories of my godfather) Slan White, who used to eat his porridge with salt in the mornings). But we don't like to start the day with a refined sugar crank, so opt for agave syrup (it's low GI) plus a few raisins.
- because we're catering for littl'uns, the raisins make the face, the agave syrup the long golden hair.

Eat this for breakfast and you'll feel happy and full, and will only need a mid-morning snack of oat cakes or a piece of fruit to last you until lunch.

Lunch Envy

I'm sure that anyone who works with other people has experienced this, it's a bit like when you go out for dinner and wish you'd ordered what someone else has chosen, and if you're practiced at it, you may even get them to swap with you! (Doesn't usually work if they are sitting at another table however!)

I walked into our staff room the other day, and spied our Deputy Head with a bowl of something deep pink and delicious looking. She knows I am interested in all things foodie, and caught me eyeing up her bowl of loveliness with amusement. 'What's that?' I asked, to which she replied in her Welsh lilt, 'Get yourself a spoon doll and have some FFS.'

                                           Beetroot and Orange Soup. Yummy.

Vodka Pasta and Pals

Kept the catering really simply this weekend for three reasons – although I still had a houseful for dinner and we all had a splendid time. So what were the reasons for the simplicity?

Firstly, am running a half marathon next weekend and so... not that the bastard long training runs are done and dusted, it's all about the carb loading and tapering (aka stuffing face with pasta and not running an awful lot).

Second reason – the ladies were actually nipping off after dinner to a party at Leon , so didn't want to do too many courses of anything fancy shcmancy, or make it a long and drawn out dinner type thing.

And thirdly, these are my lovely, known 'em since I was 10, school friends and we very rarely get together. I wanted something simple but cooked with love, so that the focus was on spending time together, not timing my complex dinner party food. As you'll see from this pic, it was all about fresh, simple flavours with a bit of a twist. The twist, in this case, being vodka, which adds brilliant depth to a basic pasta sauce.

Here's how I make one of my old favourites – vodka penne. It always goes down a treat and is really easy to throw together.

Basically, you just make your favourite version of a tomato pasta sauce (you can follow our one in the recipes section) and add a really good slug of vodka to taste. You can make this up to a day in advance. Then, when cooking dinner, simply heat gently, stir in single cream and chopped flat leaf parsley. Penne works best for this type of sauce.

As not all of my guests like chilli, I served this on the side. But normally, I would add a liberal tsp of dried chilli flakes when cooking to give this a real kick.

The non marathon training ones among us drank champagne and sloe gin with dinner. It looked potent – and I looked on longingly.

Day Goes Pie

For the pastry

225g/8oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
65g/2½oz vegetable suet
65g/2½oz unsalted butter
pinch salt
splash cold water

For the filling
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely sliced
2 leeks, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
200g/7oz smoked Cumbrian farmhouse cheese (or other smoked cheese), grated
150g/5oz cooked new potatoes, cut into cubes
1 free-range egg, beaten

To serve
Pickles, hard-boiled eggs, fresh dill, walnuts, cooked beetroot and watercress

For the pastry, rub the flour, suet, butter and salt together in a bowl. Bring the mixture together to form a dough, adding a little cold water if necessary.
Cover the bowl with cling film and place into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 4 x 15cm/6in circles and 4 x 8cm/3in circles.
For the filling, heat the butter in a pan and fry the onion, leeks and garlic until softened. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drain off any excess liquid.
In a bowl, combine the onion mixture with the mustard, cheese and potatoes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

To make the pies, place a quarter of the filling mixture in the middle of one of the larger circles. Place one of the smaller circles on top of the mixture, then bring the sides up and pinch around the top to help it stand.
Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling to make three more pies. Brush the pies all over with beaten egg.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown and crisp.
Serve warm or cold with the selection of pickles, hard-boiled eggs, dill, walnuts, cooked beetroot and some peppery watercress.

Mothers Day Breakfast – Dos and Don'ts

There aren't many things better than a lazy breakfast in bed at the weekend. Especially if you're not the one that's had to dash to the kitchen and bring the haul back up to the bedroom for all to share.

But there's an art to putting together exactly the right sort of breakfast in bed. And there are pitfalls which frankly, it's better to avoid. So welcome to our brekkie in bed do's and don'ts – based on exhaustive research (it was hellish, frankly, but someone had to do it). They're perfect for Mothers Day, or in fact for any day that you want to treat someone.

DO stick to one theme – either a lush continental or a cooked breakfast, not both
DO think about the best things to eat in bed – soft croissants are good, hard crunchy toast ( and the millions of crumbs it creates) not so good
DO prepare it for the person who's being treated – you may like a full English complete with black pudding – she may prefer softly scrambled eggs and muffins
DO upgrade a little – swap your bog standard orange juice for freshly squeezed; make fresh coffee not instant
DO add a hotel-like touch – a small blossom or bunch of snowdrops in a vase, a folded napkin, butter in a tiny pot only take minutes but will get a great response
DO include reading material to extend the lazing experience – a newspaper or favourite magazine
DO prepare more than you think – this is an indulgent occasion
And on this note, DO consider a small bottle of fizz if you think it will be appreciated!

DON'T make too much noise while preparing the breakfast – the person you're cooking for should be woken with the breakfast, not lying upstairs listening to you crashing pans and swearing
DON'T try anything new or complicated – this is not the time to grapple with Hollandaise sauce
DON'T burn anything – being woken by the smell of burnt toast or bacon will probably drive the person you're cooking for out of bed to flung open windows and doors
DON'T just plonk the food on the plate – this is a sensuous feast for the eyes, too
DON'T think you have to have separate plates – how about a large sharing platter of mini favourites?
DON'T forget the card/pressie if this is a special occasion
DON'T forget about timings – a Mothers' Day lie in and a huge, late brunch in bed is brilliant – but not if you've got a restaurant booked for a slap-up lunch an hour or so later.

And lastly, here are some of our most memorable breakfasts in bed – we'd love to hear yours, too:

• Lightly scrambled eggs, and baby plum tomatoes served with spelt toast and fresh orange juice
• Strawberry and banana smoothie served with freshly baked apple and cinnamon muffins
• Cheese, tarragon and mushroom omelet
• A sharing platter of mini pastries and different types of toast and warm rolls
• Bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese
• A ditch-all-rules, hang-the-healthy-eating-plan box of cupcakes, served with a demi sec champagne!

Watch this space for more details of our ultimate pamper me breakfast!

Best Pamper Day

When I was at University I was very lucky to make life long friends, with whom I still spend as much time as I can now.  One of my closest friends was (and still is) Shara, from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. Brilliant fun, but a terrible cook. (Sorry love!) However, that said, she did have one very special dish up her sleeve that she could make really well. Best Pamper Day... for those special breakfast in bed days, hence the name Best Pamper Day. It is the only thing that I would have as my breakfast in bed treat. Forget scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a glass of ready made Bucks Fizz.... This is the real deal if you want to really show someone (especially me) that you love them.
Click on the Love Heart for the recipe....

Inspiration from the Mother Tuckers – Pt 1

A few weeks ago, we did a guest spot on the excellent Mums Rock site (if you haven't been there, go –but not until you've finished up here, of course…) Our name for the day was Mother Tuckers, a name that we really quite liked – and which seemed apt for our 'getting ready for Mothers Day' posts this week.

So, before we proceed to actual cooking later this week, let's deal with the gifts. As two mums who are not exactly rolling in the pretty green stuff (we didn't marry hedge funders, we work in publishing and teaching, you do the math), we like a gift as much as the next gal. But let's face it, it's Mothering Sunday this weekend, not some landmark birthday – so really, there's no need to roll out the diamonds, caviar and Chanel handbags (although if you insist…)

Nope, we're delighted to get any well thought out, small token of appreciation – and especially pleased if it's a food or drink that we love. But if it's foodie, it has to be quality, and it has to be chosen with love and thought. For us, this means small suppliers who do what they do exquisitely well.

So we've put together a small list of options – we'd be happy with any of these on Mothering Sunday, and they all cost under £8

shop bought:
1. A small box of chocolates from Booja Booja, Rococo or Lindt. Or swap your choc for a Fair Trade variety.
2. A beautiful box of cupcakes
3. A bottle of pink prosecco (on offer this week at Co-op for £4.99)
4. A selection of our favourite cheeses, with a bottle of red and some crackers

1. A homemade cake (lemon drizzle is easy for kids to make)
2. Homemade fudge
3. Homemade muffins served with a fresh pot of coffee and the Sunday papers

See you later in the week for recipe ideas to cook on the day!

Trash, Treasure n' Tarts

It's very empowering to witness a group of women get behind something they believe in, and feel such empathy for someone they don't even know. Last night we hosted a Trash and Treasure night as a fundraiser to support a beautiful little girl called Bobbie, who was diagnosed with leukemia on her 6th birthday on Christmas Eve. Everyone brought 10 items, clothes, home ware, unused makeup, candles, jewelery... and we set up a pop up shop in the lounge from which we could browse, try on in the changing room (office) (although as the night progressed there was random strippage in the lounge and kitchen!) and 'buy' with their £10 donation. A few people who had never met before ended up swapping phone numbers, everyone went home with lovely new to them pieces that they were very pleased with, the food of course was fabulous and the house now looks like a bomb site!

We have devised a rolling programme of these nights, next one will be on the 27th of March, with everyone instructed to bring a friend. My friend Jeanine, a beautiful South African woman who I met modelling at a fashion show a couple of years ago, has arranged to talk to the Manager of one of  the more chi chi shopping arcades in the area to do a fundraising event, and Donna, who I met only a few weeks ago, has offered to get her Brownie pack to do some sponsored events too. The best news of the night was not however counting the money we raised, but that at midnight we received an e-mail from Bobbie's mum to say she was in remission. It had been a thought provoking evening despite the semi nakedness of some of the guests, and what I was really touched by was how much everyone wanted to help. My diary seems to be getting rather full, but if you can have some fun and create something positive so much the better. Maybe I'll do a Pop Up Restaurant next time!

Not that this seems at all relevant really but we ate Crab Croustades, Spinach and Hollandaise Croustades, Tiny Stuffed Peppers with Cream Cheese, miniature Jam Tarts with Home made Blackcurrant and Apple Jam, Mini Lemon Tarts, miniature Chocolate Muffins, and in honour of Bobbie Belleve's love of pink, Pink Champagne.

Curry Night

There is nothing better than a big old get together with good friends, good food and good wine....

So... on Saturday night 25 of us sat down to eat curry, chat breeze and enjoy a glass or two of vino. The highest compliment was paid by Lee, who remarked that the food tasted 'proper Indian.' You can't do better than that! The hideous drive to London in high winds and lashing rain with 2 kids in the back, together with discovering a rear tyre pressure of 5 psi on arriving, paled into insignificance once the first cork was popped! We were celebrating a 3rd birthday and the completion of a friend's hard graft to achieve a 2:1 in their second degree, as well as a not insignificant  nod  of  gratitude to truly great mates.

We ate a huge and very delicious Madras Shoulder of Lamb (from Dove and Son on Northcote Road) with Black Salsify and Carrot, an experimental Chicken and Coca Cola Curry, plus another huge Vegan Vegetable Madras with again Black Salsify (thank you Abel and Cole!) and Charlotte Potatoes. This was served with Mango Chutney, Mint Raita, a selection of Rotis, Chapatis & Naan Bread, and perfectly cooked Cardamom Rice.   

We drank Pink Champagne on arrival, and a gorgeous and very large vintage bottle of Chateau Chasse Spleen with our food. 

On asking the now 3 year old the next morning, if she had enjoyed her party (which finished way after she had gone to bed) she remarked that 'It was my best party ever.' I know it's only a couple of days later, but already we are all looking forward to her 4th!