Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

On 25th January 2017, Wednesday; we celebrate the life of Robbie Burns.  Many of us have often gone to organised Robbie Burns Nights where the festivities begin with The Selkirk Grace followed by a procession of pipes, tributes and toasts paid to the haggis before a dinner of ‘haggis, neeps and tatties’ followed by speeches; The Immortal Memory and a Toast to the Lassies with a reply to the Laddies.

Generally there is also much revelling in between and a bit more than a wee dram of whiskey (always scotch) must be consumed.

Finally the evening is called to a close by everyone being asked to stand, hold hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.

However, for those of you that want to give this a go at home, without the traditional order of ceremony only need follow my recipe ideas below for a fuss free feast of an evening.  All recipes below are easy to follow whether you’re creating this for a couple of you or a gathering a friends.

Robbie Burns Supper for 4 people

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Starter: Cock-A-Leekie soup
Main: Haggis with ‘neeps and tatties’
Dessert: Cranachan

Plenty of whiskey to drink!

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

This is a restorative Scottish soup consisting of leeks in chicken stock, often thickened with rice or barley.  The original recipe calls for prunes during cooking.

Ingredients:img_4074
2 leeks
2 whole chicken legs
chicken stock or water to cover
8 Pitted prunes (optional)

Method:
Halve the leeks along their length and remove any grit they may have trapped in their layers.  Chop sauté them in a pot with butter.  Always sauté leeks in butter! Add the chicken legs and top in stock or water.  Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the legs, strip the meat from the bones and discard the skin.  Return the chicken to the soup and add your pitted prunes.   Serve piping hot.

 

Haggis with ‘Neeps and Tatties’

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Cooking haggis is not difficult at all – you can boil it, oven cook it or my favourite approach, microwave it for 5 mins!  Neeps can be interpreted as either parsnips or turnips but I tend to favour swede (yellow turnip) and tatties, potatoes.  No need for gravy as the whiskey over keeps everything moist.

Ingredients:
1 small haggis serves 4 people – pick a larger one should you wish.  Nowadays you can also get vegetarian haggis.
6 large maris piper potatoes
1 large swede
butter
cream
seasoning to taste

Method:
Peel the potatoes and swede and boil separately until they are soft.  Once soft, drain them and mash them into a smooth puree with a knob of butter and a splosh of cream.  Season to taste.  Follow the cooking instructions on how to cook the haggis – I generally cook it for 5 mins in the microwave!  Serve as you wish – a wee dram of whiskey is traditionally poured over the haggis on serving.

img_4071Cranachan

Is a very simple pudding to make – imagine layers of flavoured cream, raspberries and oats.

Ingredients:
300ml pot of double cream
2 tablespoons honey
a decent slosh of whiskey
2 punnets of raspberries
6 tablespoons of toasted porridge oats

Method:
Toast the porridge oats under a hot grill; keep your eye on them as they turn burned very quickly!  In a bowl whisk the double cream, honey and whiskey together until soft peaks form – this should be billowy and not over whipped.  In serving glasses, layer, the oats, raspberries and flavoured cream.

Auld Lang Syne!

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This is the ultimate in food porn.  Scoop it straight out of the jar with your finger, spread it on toast, bread, crackers, cold cuts, cheese, a generous tablespoon stirred through spaghetti…

Ingredients:

500g Cooking Chorizo

1 large white onion finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

85g light muscovado sugar

3 tbsp Sherry vinegar

2 tbsp maple syrup

100mls strong black coffee

 

 

After the over indulgent aftermath of the Christmas period, new year’s resolutions, crash diets  and penniless pockets, January takes on a cloak of austerity.  Our tastes become less extravagant and simple; we re-introduce the aspect of portion control in the hope that we will regain a waistline before the summer.

The temperature having finally dropped means that we want wholesome, hearty, comfort food.  Soup becomes a regular staple which not only caters for the cold weather but also our pockets (as soup is the epitome of thrift.)

For those of a superstitious disposition there would have been much lentil consumption as you hailed in the New Year – or perhaps on Blue Monday (Monday 19th January 2015) the most depressing day of the year – to help break the curse of the January blues.

But as January draws to a close, for those that chose to revel in it, there is one final celebration that you could choose to indulge in:  Robbie Burns Night.  Usually celebrated on the eve of the great Bard’s Birthday, 25th January or thereabouts, can be the perfect excuse to celebrate surviving the uphill struggle that can be the month of January.

Looking at the event from a culinary perspective you are required to follow certain practices.  Whiskey needs to be omnipresent throughout the meal, there has got to be a haggis served with ‘neeps and tatties’ and cock-a-leekie soup should be the ideal starter to warm you through before you continue with the evening’s proceedings.

Starter: Cock-a-leekie Soupcock-a-leekie soup

Ingredients
2 leeks washed and diced
4 rashers of streaky bacon
A whole chicken or
8 chicken pieces
Splosh of white wine
180g stoned prunes
1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay, parsely)
Water/stock to cover the chicken)
Oil/Butter for frying
Seasoning

Method
1./ Melt the butter and fry the chicken pieces until golden brown, then remove and set aside.

2./ Add the chopped bacon to the pan and fry until some of the fat is rendered out and fry one of the leeks in this until the whites are translucent.

3./ Splosh in the white wine and boil rapidly whilst scraping the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken pieces (making sure to pour in any liquid it may have released) with the bouquet garni and add enough water/stock to cover.  Simmer for 45 mins or until the chicken is tender.

4./ Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to cool slightly.  Chop the second leek and add it to the pot.  Simmer until tender.  Remove the bouquet garni.

5./ Remove the chicken skin and bones and discard.  Shred the chicken or cut into coarse chunks and add this to the pot.  Add the prunes and simmer for another 20-30mins.

6./ Skim off any excess fat using a turkey-baster and season to taste.

Main Course: Haggis with ‘Neeps and Tatties’

Not so much a cheat but a necessity – BUY THE HAGGIS – don’t even attempt to recreate this at home.  Most supermarkets will stock a decent haggis that you can be proud to serve.  You can now even get vegetarian haggises (or is it haggi?) and to simplify matters you can microwave them if that would make matters simpler. 

“Great chieftain o’ the pudding race!”

To be honest you should spend more time thinking about your ‘neeps and tatties’ and how you’re going to serve these.

‘Neeps and Tatties’ cause annual controversy.  The ‘tatties’ are mashed potatoes and the world is in unanimous agreement over this, however, the ‘neeps’ cause such contention that no one is truly sure what these are anymore; even amongst the Scots there is disagreement.   Possible options are: turnips, swede, parsnips and I’ve even read about someone using celeriac.  Having researched around on the topic, I believe that traditionally turnips would have been used but I was unable to find decent turnips at the grocers so opted for parsnips instead.

My ‘Neeps and Tatties’ were treated the same way: peeled, boiled, mashed with butter, cream and nutmeg, salt and pepper.  I made a quick port and red wine reduced sauce to serve with.
Timbale of haggis neeps and tatties

After one of my guests performed the ‘Address to the Haggis’ and with alacrity sliced open the haggis with the finely honed edge of his ceremonial dirk (actually my kitchen knife!) we served ourselves from the centre of the table.   I made a quick port and red wine reduced sauce to serve with.  Experimenting with the leftovers the following evening I served this as a timbale as can be seen in the photograph.

cranachanDessert: Cranachan

Ingredients
5 tbsp porridge oats
2 punnets of raspberries
600ml double cream
3 tbsp heather honey
5 tbsp whiskey
Method
1./ Spread the porridge oats on a baking sheet and grill until it smells rich and nutty.  It will not darken quickly like almonds.  Set aside until cool.

2./ Crush some of the raspberries into a purée.  Whisk the double cream until set and stir in the honey and whiskey.  Stir in the toasted porridge oats.

3./ In glasses assemble layers of the cream mixture with the raspberry purée and the raspberries.  Serve with a sprig of mint.

Although not truly authentic, adding other berries might add to this dessert – blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries would enhance its creamy-fruity lusciousness.   Anyone who knows me well, knows that I cannot stomach whiskey but here the subtle ghost of whiskey, mist-like in this dessert was just right; I almost feel as if it needed more honey or sugar to just lift the taste.  Perhaps serving it with some shortbread biscuits.

The leftover cock-a-leekie soup became a quick chicken and leek pie for lunch the following day:

Food for thought for next year: cock-a-leekie starter worked very well but maybe some crusty bread to go with, turnips instead of parsnips, serve as a timbale, more port and red wine sauce, more berries and honey in the cranachan.

Generally more whiskey!

BBQ3Even though the first day of summer is officially 21st June, here in Gibraltar, dusting off the grill and serving up a platter of barbequed delights anytime between April/May is a good indication that summer is on its way.

The question is always: who is going to be brave enough to be the first to strike up the BBQ?

Waking up from our winter/spring hibernation-state brought on by the dark, cold and rainy season. The extended hours of daylight means we leave the comforts of the home and spend more time outdoors.  We start to alter our eating habits: food becomes lighter and fresher during the day and we tend to eat later in the evening.  As the weather gets progressively warmer we move out of the house to cook on open flame; all strategies designed to help combat the summer heat.

Cooking on open flame can only mean one thing – barbeque.

And nothing beats the taste of BBQ!

Succulent meats flame-licked to tender perfection, grilled veggies scorched into savoury crispness, flaking off the bone ribs and sumptuous seafood designed to be cooked over charcoal.

The joy of BBQ food is that you can make it as cheap or extravagant as you want; you can cater for one or one hundred.  Children tend to gravitate towards the quintessential BBQ staples: sausages, burgers and corn on the cob.  Those of more diverse palate can taste grilled seafood, choice cuts of meat and even ask for these to be cooked to their liking.

But as delicious as BBQ food is, the main reason why we love a good BBQ is the social aspect of the event.  These get-togethers are intimate, laid back affairs.  There is no procession of courses – the way the food is eaten and served is informal.  People will generally dispense with cutlery, eat standing up whilst mingling, locating drinks or foraging for food.  There is no meal time constraint; food comes as and when it is ready – meats are not cooked at the same time to provide a self service style buffet; service is relaxed and dependent on whether your guests could have, “another little bite!”  This can sometimes go on for several hours should the conditions be right.

BBQ2

BBQ role-reversal etiquette dictates that the man of the household does the cooking. Mum probably cooks all year round, slaving in the kitchen, to provide food for her family but come BBQ season, cooking becomes man’s domain.  Subsequently any of the male guests will congregate around the fire and make noises of approval/disapproval as to how well food is being cooked.

Females bring salads.

Ultimately, BBQ’s are very convenient.  We can use disposable BBQ sets, self igniting charcoal bags as well as disposable cups, cutlery and plates.  Creating minimal washing up after the event.

BBQ’s are usually celebrated with close friends and family and have the same cathartic effect on us as other major celebrations.  Everyone feels good at BBQ’s.

So whether you do it in your patios, gardens, balconies or at the beach (getting appropriate permissions) light a fire, skewer some meat or seafood, rinse out your beach towels and get grilling.  Let’s enjoy the summer.

As published in Calentita Press 2014

Gastrorob

 

 

After the first full moon of May as the Spring turns to Summer the Spanish coastal towns from Tarifa to Conil watch in the splendour of Blue-fin tuna making their way from the cold Atlantic waters to warmer Mediterranean spawning grounds.

Their streamlined bodies having packed on blubber during the winter months make these massive Blue-fin tuna a mighty catch. Most are frozen and shipped to Japan at a hefty price but some are destined for the restaurants that line the south west coast of Andalusia and even make their way as far south as El Capote (Gibraltar)!

With plenty of newcomers to El Capote’s food and wine matching evenings, Ian and Chef Lede set out a fantastic menu to herald this fantastic fish. And may I say, what a treat was in store for us!

9 different fresh tuna courses. Tostas, Mojama, Brocheta, Sashimi, Tartar, Tataki, Galete, Lomo, Albondiga!

A modo de Tapas

  • Tostas de Atún en manteca colorá de citricos y polvo de ibérico

Fresh tuna sitting on a toasted tortilla spread with lard that had been mixed with the zest and juice of an orange to cut through the fatty fish. Served with tiny pieces of cured Spanish ham which added a necessary salty intensity to the tuna. Beautiful.

  • Salmorejo cordobés con Mojama de Atún y huevos de codorniz

This dish was delicious – sweet salmorejo that had cured meat and boiled egg served with. However, instead of cured jamón; mojama (cured tuna). The mojama cube adding salty seasoning to the intensely sweet salmorejo topped with a boiled quail’s egg. Simple and wonderful in one bite!  And then finish the bowl of sweet, silky salmorejo.  We had a competition on our table to see who could get their bowl the cleanest – if my memory (after all that wine) serves me correctly the winner was Owen – as I cheated and used my finger!  Finger-licking-good!!

  • Brocheta de Atún con espuma de soja

Tuna, wrapped in nori (maki roll) with pearled rice and fried.  Served with a little wasabi sauce and soya cream.  Originally meant to be a tempura dish, however some of the diners expressed the need for some dishes to be gluten-free.  Therefore Ian with Chef Lede redesigned the finish to this dish so that it would still have the same structure with crispy pieces to provide contrast in texture.  Just as tasty and gluten-free.

A modo de Japo-Andaluz

  • Tartar de Atún, condimentos y mezclum de hierbas con nieve de manzana

A very light and delicate balance of flavours in this dish. The tuna tartar was sublime – accompanied by a tangle of zesty-green, fresh leaves. I was watching Chef Lede’s assistant add the green apple ‘snow’ to the dish; a workman should never blame his tools but the ‘snow’ was snowballing onto the plate as opposed to his anticipated light flutter. He did try to clear some of the snow-flurry off but his fingers literally ploughed through the delicate tartar! Perhaps creating an apple sorbet or freeze-drying the apple shavings previously would have created the desired effect. However, I loved this dish, I thought it would make a great light lunch or even a starter at a dinner party – fantastic.

  • Sashimi de ventresca de Atún con helado de Wasabi y vinagreta de Yuzu

Tuna belly sashimi. Wasabi ice-cream. Yuzu vinaigrette. Sounds simple – but this dish got me very excited! The wasabi ice-cream sitting on top of the sashimi was such a clever touch to what was already a gorgeous dish. Tuna belly is a prized ingredient in sushi and sashimi – sometimes referred to as the ‘king of ingredients’ due to its rich, fatty flavour. The yuzu, a kind of japanese citrus fruit, with its aromatic, almost floral flavour provided a an acidic backnote to cut through the fatty tuna – absolutely delicious.

  • Tataki de lomo negro de Atún con su ajoblanco – ajonegro

Tuna tenderloin of dark meat sitting on ajoblanco (aka white gazpacho: almonds, garlic, bread, water, oil and vinegar). The tenderloin was meaty and served in slices showing us the quality of the meat. Seared on the outside and quiveringly rare in the centre. The ajoblanco with its caviar and balsamic notes providing necessary tang and to what was otherwise a sublime dish.

beautiful, tasty, fantastic, absolutely delicious, sublime

I didn’t eat the ajonegro as the idea of bitter burnt garlic didn’t appeal to me – but then again was I meant to? And this is what I absolutely love about eating at El Capote on these evenings – it’s not just fuel consumption but a multisensory experience where diner must look, touch, smell, taste, think before taking the culinary plunge.

A modo de guisos de toda la vida pero a mi manera

  • Lomo blanco de Atún en tomate con su pellejito

Tenderloin of white meat in a tomato sauce. Again another winner. We’ve all had tuna in tomato before. I used to have tuna in tomato with pasta as a student but never as good at this! It goes to show how the quality of the product is what Mediterranean cooking is all about – simple dishes where the product sets the standard for excellence.

  • Patata de feria, Galete de Atún con papas en su papel de plata

“I’m sorry everyone but the next dish went a bit wrong. The foil paper that the potato is cooked in has stuck to the jacket skin – you’re going to have to peel it off but the inside is delicious!”

Was the voice of Ian as he served us up the next dish. With regulars heckling the man demanding a discount and newcomers trying to explain to their fellow diners that everything had been fantastic so far so they had no problem with this, the Patatas arrived at the table. A hush descended on the room…

…very clever. The foil was edible silver leaf! Cutting through the potato revealed flaked tuna (reminiscent of El Huerto De Lede). The potato sat in a light broth adding seasoning and flavour to the whole dish.

  • Albóndiga de Atún encebollado

By now most of us couldn’t have thought of how else tuna was going to be served and then suddenly we were given a massive tuna meatball each! However, a delicious tuna meatball. An absolute shame that as we cut into the tuna meatball none of the eggs were runny as this would have been impressive on the eye but the flavour was still there. Delicious.

The entire evening’s menu degustacion of tuna dish upon tuna dish was deliriously excellent.  However, if I have to pick the dish that was my favourite of the night it has to be the Tuna Tataki con su ajoblanco/ajonegro.

dessert

As a little bonus, we were given a dessert that wasn’t on the menu: pinenuts, vanilla ice-cream and basil sauce served with a parmesan melt.  Fresh and zingy – an excellent way to liven the palate after the rich dishes we had just been given the pleasure to share with eachother.

What’s next?  It’s surely got to be El Capote’s Greatest Hits.  I know which ones would make my top 5 – which are yours?

Having established a benchmark of food and drink at my parties a few years ago, what could I pull out of the bag to feed my 20+ guests this party round?  After all I can no longer get away with several bags of doritos and assorted dips!

Do I provide my standard party medly of spiced nuts, cranberry glazed cocktail sausages and pesto palmiers?  Surely that’s a more wintry repertoire.  With the weather nearing the cusp of summer a lighter menu would be more appropriate.

So when thinking of summer food what do we recall to mind?  For me it’s things like chilled gazpacho, salads, fruit and veg and bbq meat!  How could I go about trying to incorporate these ideas into my repertoire of party food?

Summer Party Menu:

strawberry cocktail

taken from youtube.com

Strawberry Champagne Cocktail

In a blender blitz strawberries, lemon juice and icing sugar until you form a strawberry puree.  Pour this into the bottom of champagne glasses and top up with the fizzy wine of your choice.

After much deliberation the following is the menu I decided on:

Ajo Blanco (aka white gazpacho), Roast vegetable cous cous salad, Cauliflower cake and Beef carpaccio with parmesan shavings.  For dessert homemade limoncello and biscotti.

Ajo BlancoAjo blanco

I followed a Sam and Sam Clark Moro recipe (having even asked them which bread to use via Twitter!) but looking online there are several sites that have similar if identical recipes.

Literally combine almonds, garlic, stale bread, olive oil, sherry vinegar and iced water in a blender and blitz until it forms a smooth-like liquid with the consistency of cream.  Chill and serve with white grape cheeks.  This needs to be served ice cold – so either put into the freezer for a while before serving or pour over ice.

Top Tip: beware the volume of liquid you put into your processor as you don’t want it pouring out of the central post as mine did!!

Roast Vegetable Cous Cous SaladRoasted-Veg-Couscous

This couldn’t be easier; roast the veggies you wish – peppers, red onions and courgettes give the best flavour for this but I also used some leftover asparagus.  Aubergine is a great veg to use in this as it is a meaty vegetable providing texture as well as colour.

When you’re ready to assemble, pour boiling water or stock over the cous cous making sure to just cover in liquid.  Cover in cling film and leave until the cous cous has absorbed all the water.  Mix the veg through and add chopped herbs – parsely, corriander and mint work best.

Cauliflower CakeCauliflower Cake

A recipe from Foodat52 from my Foodie Weekend but a quick online search has given me the exact same recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi  (Follow the Yotam hyperlink to take you to the recipe) at the Guardian online.

I’ve followed this cauliflower cake recipe several times now.  The 10 eggs in the batter make the cake soufflé in the tin.  It is decadent, delicious, moreish and full of flavour.  Ideal as a light lunch.  You could almost replace the ubiquitous lunchtime quiche with this golden cauliflower delight.

decadent, delicious, moreish

The great thing about the cauliflower cake is that it is even better the following day!

Beef CarpaccioBeef Carpaccio

As all my other dishes were unintentionally vegetarian I decided to pull out all the stops with a prime fillet of beef for the carnivores amongst us.

Make sure that the fillet is at room temperature before attempting to cook it.

Roll the prime fillet in sea salt, crushed black pepper, finely chopped rosemary and thyme (no oil).  Once the griddle is smoking hot, sear the fillet for a minute all the way round.

Then take off the heat and leave to rest.  Once the meat has rested for anything from 5 – 10mins, slice it as thinly as you can AND with the back of the knife flatten each slice as much as possible without grinding the fillet into a mush on your board.

Top Tip: Know your audience!  As there are many people attending the party who would not like to eat their meat carpaccio-style, put the end of meat into the oven.  Leave to rest and then carve this in thin slices/strips.

Lay the slices of carpaccio onto a dish and shave parmesan over.  Sprinkle with some fresh thyme and drizzle with a simple dressing of olive oil, mustard and sherry vinegar.  If serving this as a main meal accompany the carpaccio with peppery rocket leaves.

Limoncello and Biscotti

click on the hyperlink to direct you to the recipes.

If there is one recipe from the ones mentioned above that you MUST try and recreate it has to be Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower Cake.  I’m off to scrounge in the fridge for leftovers!

Enjoy the summer everyone.

Licking my lips, I alighted from the Heathrow Express at Paddington and made my way to the Southbank Centre to check out the Cheese and Wine Festival.

Having arrived late-afternoon (I had just flown in from Gib!) I had missed the ‘food theatre’ and even though there were not many people jostling around the food stalls it was still good to see the amount of different artisan cheeses on display; I tried a few mature cheeses that bit back!  There was other produce too: ice-cream, cider and ales.

IMG_2594Clutching a pint of cider I made my way around the food stalls (approx 20 in total) and stopped at a small Italian stall that didn’t look as if were attracting that many people.  Here I selected a ‘Cheeseburger’ wrapped in pancetta to eat on the spot.

This was wonderful – a hard goat’s cheese wrapped in pancetta and placed on a hot grill; cooked until the bacon was crispy and the cheese warmed through!

With a belly full of cheese and cider I then made my way to meet up with some friends who were looking forward to playing along with the theme of ‘Foodie Weekend.’

After several ales at different pubs including a really hoppy Ruby Red at the Jerusalem Tavern,

StJohn

Clerkenwell and some fruit of the vine at Vinoteca before dinner, we made our way to St John Restaurant and Grill.

Now this place is very unsuspecting from the façade as it looks like a butcher’s shop or even an industrial building.  However, you should not be fooled by this as a lonely Michelin star graces each dish that you eat.  A fantastic nose-to-tail eating experience with seasonal dishes such as Roasted Bone Marrow on toast, the understated Terrine (made with offal -superb!) and Braised veal with chickpeas.

If you ever get the chance to dine here do so.  I was left wanting more!

On Saturday after a quick walk through West Hampstead’s Farmer’s Market – again full of beautiful home grown, artisan produce, I made my way to Food at 52 where I attended a food course.

Food at 52

Food at 52 is like walking into a friend’s house and sitting in their lounge whilst you can smell the comforting scents of food wafting up from the kitchen.  As you meet your other ‘friends’ you start to get to know eachother’s reasons for being there.  Most of us had the experience bought as a birthday present or as a wedding gift but talking to John, they get lots of corporate clients.

Once in the kitchen, John and Jess provide coffee/tea and freshly made biscotti so that you can all introduce yourselves to eachother as this is a relaxed homely environment.

Working together we combined forces and produced a beautiful meal that we all sat down to at the end of the afternoon.

One of my favourite recipes that day was the Cauliflower Cake:

IMG_2634

At first I was slightly taken aback by this, as the idea of cauliflower, as anything other than in its veg form as part of the meat and 2 veg Sunday roast, left me thinking of water-logged cauliflower cheese that people always tell you tastes great but really is a bit blah!

But I was the only greedy person at the table to eat two slices!

The ritual of putting it together, even though seemed complicated, was actually quite simple as I managed to rustle this one up from memory at home the other night.

I’m not saying it looked identical to the one we made at foodat52 but otherwise it tasted just as good!!

After a great day’s cooking at Foodat52, my friends took me to Arbutus, Soho, London to have dinner.  May I just say that everything on this menu appealed to me!  From their melon and vodka martini, to their squid and mackerel burger with razor clams right to its Pied et Paquets (lambs tripe, shoulder and trotters!) everything was amazing!

I’m hoping my friends never leave London so that I can keep on notching up  Michelin Stars!

So with a bellyful of 2-Michelin-Stars-worth-of-food, a host of new recipes to try at home and an increased passion for food, I came back from my Foodie Weekend, a very full but happy man!

Already looking at another cookery course – who’s in?