Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Multi-course meals

Sunday, January 24th, 2016 | Food, Thoughts


For our New Year’s Eve murder mystery dinner party I planned a multi-course meal. To be exact I planned 11 courses. However, everyone was so full after the ninth course that we never made it to the final two.

Here is the menu I served up.


Wood-smoked salmon pâté
Served on baguette

Goat’s cheese tart
Served with Asian-inspired coleslaw

Mexican tomato and bean soup
Served with maneesh and bloomer

Breaded fish
Served with tomato chutney and lettuce

Yorkshire pudding
Served in a Thai red curry sauce on a steak

Served with slow-cooked ratatouille

Carrot, orange and chervil salad

Fruit pie
Served with honeycomb ice cream

Caramel chocolate shortbread

Cheese board
With crackers and grapes

Tea & coffee
Served with chocolate biscuits

Usually, I would go for a big bang approach with dinner parties. There may or may not be a starter. Most of the food would arrive with the main course, which might consist of multiple potential centrepiece dishes and many different sides.

This was very difficult to do well. The myriad dishes all had to come out hot at the same time. There was competition for attention in those final minutes and a constant strain on hob and oven space. Then you had to fit everything on the table at the same time, as well as people’s plates, and provide implements for serving everything.

My plan on New Year was to avoid all of this. By breaking everything down into small courses I would eliminate many of these problems. There was be less competition for hob and oven space as every course was spaced half an hour apart and prepared one by one. Dishes were then plated up in the kitchen and bought to the table.

Some of the effort was also wiped our by cheating, or arguably careful planning. Many of the dishes were simply cold for example. There were only four hot dishes: the soup, the fish and the two meat courses. The rest were served at room temperature, or chilled (some in my second fridge: the balcony!). I also pressed my slow cooker into use to make the ratatouille. I was able to prepare this hours in advance, slow cook it and have it sat there ready.

The advantages were clear. Each dish got more attention. Everything could be nicely presented. There was no fighting for oven space. Taking the plates to the table meant that were was plenty of space for people’s drinks, bottles of wine and even an array of candles. Many small courses also allows for more variety in the meal.

The disadvantages were reasonably few. It could be that I spent more time at the kitchen rather than at the table, but it did not feel that way. The biggest problem was plates. You need a lot of them. You either need a lot of them, or the ability to wash and dry them quickly. In the end, we used a combination of both.

We bought some high-quality disposable plates. They were made of plastic but easily stood being washed up and re-used. Being plastic I could not warm them, however. We also had to re-use cutlery.

Overall, I think I am a convert to the multi-course meal. The biggest advantage being it takes the pressure off the one big delivery. It also allows you to spend more time crafting small and varied dishes. I suspect 11 is probably a little over the top though…

Peppercorn sauce

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 | Food


Many restaurants fail to make a good peppercorn sauce. You are served a watery gravy that looks like it might have been near a peppercorn once, perhaps long ago. I did not have a particularly good recipe myself though so I set out on a quest to come up with a better one.

Looking back now, I realise how dull my life really is. It comes with a good sauce though.

The photo shows a few of the iterations. The one on the right is the final champion.


Saturday, October 31st, 2015 | Food

At Elina’s request, and because it sounded like a fun challenge, I have recently turned my hand to pie baking. It is an interesting journey, though they take a long time to make. If I have stuff to do after work, they don’t always go in the oven until 10pm! They do provide plenty of food though.

I am not a fan of shortcrust. Too crumbly. Good to sweet pies, but I think I am going to stay away for savories. I have fallen in love with ruff puff. In a very many, working-class way of course. Hot water crust is nice to work with, and produces a good result if you do not want flaking.

Neatness is something I definitely need to work on. They usually look like the recipe, if the pie in the recipe had been beaten up. Which is not really a problem as it is recognisable and tasty, but won’t be winning me any prizes on Bake Off.


Corned beef pie with a shortcrust pastry.


Pork, apple and cider pie, might have been ruff puff.


Sausage plait. It was supposed to be made with full puff. However, when I came to make it, the first step was make the puff pastry and chill for 7 hours. So I did ruff puff instead.


Raised game pie with a hot water crust pastry.

Thug Kitchen

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 | Books, Food


Thug Kitchen is a cookbook with the subtitle “eat like you give a fuck”. It is also an organisation of the same name and comes with a quote from Jamie Oliver on the back. It is full of vegetarian recipes.

It is a pretty good cookbook. The recipes can be a bit long winded, but not to the extent of River Cottage, and the results are usually pretty good. Around half of them have pictures.

I found quite a lot of the recipes of limited use though. I’m somewhat reluctant to make recipes without photos as seeing the end result provides an object and motivation, so that comes out a lot of them. Then other sections. Other recipes are breakfast,s ideas or other small dishes that do not fit into my schedule.

The swearing is rather over the top too. I’m always having to “chop that mother fucker.” Why? I have no problem with swearing, but I do find it silly when someone tries to make non-magic mushrooms part of gang culture. They mock out the word “fuck” on the cover. If you are going to spend your whole book swearing, at least have the balls to write fuck in full on the front.

My biggest issue with the book it is that it very American though. I can manage cups, because those translate into litres quite well. However, the use of imperial measurements, particularly temperatures, means I regularly have to google what it is in modern measurements. No alternatives are provided.

Overall, it has some nice recipes in, but not ones I would use regularly.

River Cottage Every Day

Friday, June 19th, 2015 | Books, Food


Hugh’s Veg Every Day! book is probably my favourite cookbook so far, so I was eager to see what River Cottage Every Day has to offer.

It’s not as good, but still useful. Mostly I think it is just a bit more hit and miss. The rabbit stew for example was rubbish. Whereas the home-cured bacon chops were pretty good and the breaded fish fillets were a winner.

The biggest challenge can often be getting the ingredients for the recipes. I haven’t dared schedule in devilled lamb hearts and oxtail stew yet in case my butcher can’t supply the foods, and the Thai seafood soup required squeezing a trip to the fish market into my lunch break.

The best part is probably the bread though. Hugh’s focaccia recipe has quickly found a regular place in our kitchen.

30 Minute One Pot

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 | Books, Food


We have a One Pot cookbook already and it’s reasonably good. At least in theory, when I use it it has been good, though I rarely do. This book is a much larger (size wise it is A4, though not long) and similarly well presented with large photos and simple instructions with clear timings.

All of that is brilliant.

It is let down by the rest of it though. Many of the recipes just do not work very well and often they take longer than 30 minutes. They also differ from the one pot philosophy (dump everything into a pot and cook) with a variety of different cooking styles, though I’m not too fussed about this.

There are some nice recipes that I am sure we will be doing again. The meatballs worked quite well. However it look quite a quite to narrow it down to the ones that work and the ones that do not, which was a frustrating process.

500 Ways to Cook Vegetarian

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 | Books, Food


Don’t get your hopes up, it isn’t 500 ways to cook a vegetarian. However, it is still pretty good. For a start, it has 500 recipes in. That is loads. Often such lists would just be identical dishes (beans with fennel, beans with onion, beans with leek), but the book does a pretty good job of providing genuinely different recipes.

Everything has a photo too. They are only small, but that is better than fewer, larger photos in my opinion. The recipes are reasonably simple and don’t take too long to make, though are not massively fancy or memorable. It’s a good every day book though.

The Accidental Vegetarian

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 | Books, Food


Simon Rimmer claims he bought a vegetarian cafe and then learned how to cook. Given how successful Greens has been, you have to wonder how true that is. However, with it being a cookbook, who really cares.

The book is okay. It has some good recipes in it, most notably the sweet potato and pineapple sandwich (a main that uses pineapple for bread), Lancashire cheese sausages (that contain so much cheese they are probably less healthy than real sausages) and honeycomb ice cream.

Overall though it is let down by not having a photo of most of the recipes. The photos that do exist are large and colourful, but I dislike recipe books in which I cannot judge if what I have made looks anything like it should or not.

TV Dinners

Sunday, June 14th, 2015 | Distractions

TV Dinners is a show in which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall investigating people’s dinner parties. Sort of.

As far as I can tell, it seems to be a show where Hugh travels round the country making fun of posh people. To me, the message seems to be “your life might have problems, but at least you didn’t spend nine months waiting for a custom-made table and multi-coloured chairs, and then make individual desserts for each colour, served by two hired waiters.”

And it goes on. There are men so obsessed with chilli that they put it in everything and brew their own chilli beer. This is all combined to make their wives their tenth wedding anniversary meal. The woman who goes to Harvey Nichols to get bones for her stock. The racing enthusiasts that hand out forfeits for forgetting to wear a club tie.

Of course it could be that you are incredibly clever and sophisticated if you throw a Futurist dinner party in which you blindfold your guests for the entrées, have a fish course that is just for smelling before going in the bin, and having a communal dessert that you all lick because cutlery is banned. However, I think we also need to face the possibility that you might also be a complete twat.

Luckily, there was a Yorkshireman to the rescue. He had a great recipe for puddings (I haven’t tasted them, but I’m judging it on proximity to my recipe) and when Hugh asked what he was going to do with his roasting joint, he replied that he was going to cook it. No fuss, just great meat. Champion.

Why Not Eat Insects?

Friday, May 15th, 2015 | Books, Food


Why Not Eat Insects? is a 1885 book by Vincent M. Holt. Surprisingly enough, it is a book advocating the consumption of insects. And why not? They are nutritious, tasty and plentiful.

He starts off by tackling the prejudice against eating them. We think it is a weird yet people all over the world do it. We worry that they will have fed on the wrong stuff, but this is unfounded. Most insects are vegetarians. Compare this to pigs. They will eat anything. Lobsters too. Lobsters are often caught wild and so you have no idea what they have eaten; putrified dead fish being one of their favourite meals.

He then goes on to suggest how to catch, prepare and cook a variety of insects including snails, moths, woodlice, caterpillars and others. He even concludes with some sample menus you could use for a dinner party!

It’s quite a small book; I got through the entire thing in about 45 minutes. It is also a reproduction and suffers from some flaws in the process, so is perfectly readable.