We ate Chicken Kievs from Waitrose last night and when Scarlett served them up she gave the usual hot butter squirting in your eye health and safety warning, which made me think, has anyone ever really been blinded by a Chicken Kiev?
What a brilliant idea of Pascal and Karine Canevet (from Bury's superb Maison Bleue) to create a French take-away menu that is served in simple, elegant glass pots. I ordered a family meal last Saturday, originally planning to eat it on Sunday as a casual lunch, but blown away by the delicious menu of seasonal French dishes we decided instead to set the table and sit down to a candlelit dinner on Saturday. What a menu! Every item that Pascal has created works so well in the mini Kilner style jars. There were 5 starters, 5 main courses and 5 desserts to choose from, the kind of menu that you have to dither over, as everything sounds so good. I started with a velvety smooth, brandy laced chicken liver parfait topped with a Port gelée, others in the family tried the pork, pheasant and sultana coarse paté with cranberry and also the salmon and smoked salmon rillettes with cucumber. Nobody was willing to part with their pots or share so I didn't get a taste. Crisp toast was also packed in the food parcel to accompany the pate and parfait. Any misgivings about eating food from a jar (I do like a plate) were allayed by Karine when collecting the meal who told me ' You must eat from the jars' and also seeing the care with Pascal's presentation. We couldn't possibly turn these out! Main courses which were in bigger pots took 20 minutes in the oven at 160 degrees to heat through - the contents already being cooked, so no worrying about cooking times or burning your food. There's a microwave in about 2 minutes option too, which might be easier if you are dining solo or choosing to eat for a quick lunch. My cod, tarragon and carrot stew produced forkfuls of glossy white cod, aromatically flavoured with tarragon; the King of french herbs, with sweet chunks of carrot and celery. A thickened buttery and wine infused sauce met with pomme puree at the bottom of the pot. Mum's Beef Bourguignon was so generous that she couldn't manage it all, maybe is was the side dish of Gratin Dauphinois Mum ... Mr SFoodie chose Pork Belly with Le Puy Lentil (again, not sharing but declaring as tender, with lots of herbs) Scarlett ordered the Smoked Haddock Cassolette, which would have been my second choice for a main course. Lovely lovely smoked haddock with prawns and rather delicious and fragrant pilau rice with hints of lime and coriander. Three courses make the meal a set price of £19.95 and I'd seen the images of the Mont Blanc on Insta and wanted one. It's one of my favourite desserts, I even have a vermicelli press bought in Switzerland years ago to make my own. To be honest if it had been the size of Mont Blanc I could have managed to eat this one, with a tangy blackcurrant puree cutting through the sweet chestnuts. Mum had Rhubarb Panacotta, light, vanilla infused, creamy and wobbly. Chocolate Mousse with salted butter Caramel disappeared in front of Mr SFoodie. But what was simply 'magnifique' was the Pineapple, Brioche, Chantilly. Oh la la!
- Chicken Liver Parfait, Port gelée
- Pork, pheasant and sultana coarse paté, cranberry
- Salmon and smoked salmon rillettes, cucumber
- Pork Belly, onion compote, “Le Puy“ lentils
- Cod, tarragon and carrot stew
- Smoked haddock, black tiger prawn, leek and pilau rice cassolette
- Léa “Mont Blanc” with chestnut, white chocolate and black currant
- Pineapple, brioche and Chantilly
- we drank Chatau Vari Monbazillac with the dessert, which is why I have no photos of the chocolate mousse and panacotta
For Shrove Tuesday, beautiful vibrant green pea pancakes made with British grown and milled marrowfat peas from Hodmedod's. Hodmedod's are the Suffolk pulse pioneers and produce a wide range of pulse flours. I bought the gluten free bundle which included Buckwheat, Yellow Pea, Green Pea, Quinoa and Fava Bean. I found that the flavour of the green pea pancakes mellowed beautifully and was even sweeter after baking in the oven. The pancakes also make excellent layers in place of pasta for lasagne and cannelloni.
- Hodmedods Marrowfat Pea Flour
- Ready to flip
- Pea Green pancakes rolled and stuffed
- Cover with cheese and bake
I'm a sucker for a Wooster's malt loaf and often buy one with my weekend bread order. I was reminded recently, via Twiitter, about my Malted Fruit Loaf recipe from the Chalice Recipe Book, written by me in the 80's. It's an old faithful recipe which is best made with wholemeal flour and Suffolk honey. It's quick and easy, is fat and sugar free and doesn't need yeast. Why not give it a try?
I made three little jars of Seville orange curd yesterday, to use up the last of my oranges. It's a touch of sunshine for February. My lemon curd recipe works for any citrus fruit, just mix and match. Long, slow cooking is the secret for a good curd. Use a double boiler or a heatproof bowl over a pan of hot water. Take your time! This recipe makes about 800g which should just about fill two standard size jam jars. Make sure that used jars are spotlessly clean and sterilise by warming in the oven. The curd should keep in a cool place in perfect condition for about three months.
Wagamama is making 2021 the year of positive change pledging that 50% of the menu will be meat free by the end of the year. Quite a challenge given the crippling COVID restrictions and constant closures of the past year. Plans for the current lockdown are to keep as many of its branches open as possible for takeaways, including the Bury St Edmunds branch. So whilst many of us have been correctly focussing on supporting the independent restaurants, we mustn't forget the role that the bigger chains play within the UK economy. As employers across a range of varied roles, the UK restaurant sector remains one of the UK's most diverse and creative industries in which the chains play a significant part. When Wagamama opened in 1992 it was revolutionary, bringing Asian food to consumers in an approachable way. Hopefully in 2021 it will be revolutionary in tackling the hard issues of sustainability.
I was invited by the GM in Bury St Edmunds to try some of the new and existing menu, including some vegan options. Of course, because of lockdown it had to be a takeaway, but that proved to be a good opportunity to see how the click and collect system worked and if the food would be as good as when served in the restaurant. At the moment I have my 14 month old grandson living with me and the million dollar question was - will the baby like the food? So last Thursday I set off to Bury to collect a family takeaway, selected for us by the staff. What a treat to not have to cook and greedily we managed to devour the sides of edamame beans with chilli garlic salt, wok fried greens, duck gyoza, ebi katsu and tama chilli squid while we unpacked the main course dishes. Abbie (in the picture above with the other friendly and upbeat staff) wanted us to try the fresh squeezed juices and included both the 'positive' (pineapple, lime, spinach, cucumber and apple) and 'power' (spinach, apple, fresh ginger) which I'd drive back to Bury for right now. These were really invigorating drinks, especially the power juice with a good hit of ginger. The takeaway packaging for the food is robust, so robust I thought why such an expense on containers, but I get it, already the take-out bowls, although recyclable have been put to use in the freezer and been kept to re-use again and again. Main courses included a portion of the Wagamama vegan 'ribs' which were sticky, smoky, sweet and spicy but softer in texture than pork or beef. For the ever growing number of consumers who are turning to veganism for ethical reasons and look for fake meat products these ribs might be the answer, but for me, because I'm a fresh vegetable lover, far more enjoyable was the delicious vegan Teppanyaki -yaki soba yasai ( thin noodles, sizzling from the grill with stir fried mushrooms, peppers, beansprouts, onions and flavoured with ginger and sesame). We also tried a hearty donburri with teriyaki beef brisket which came with kimchee. Curry was also on the menu; a mild and citrusy chicken raisukaree which was well balanced and fragrant with chilli, fresh lime and fresh coriander. And the baby? Well Emilio was served a mini chicken katsu and a mini yaki soba, which we tasted too. He loved both and what a treat to see an interesting kids menu full of colourful, fresh and exciting flavours.
- edamame beans which we ate dipped into chilli-garlic salt
- donburi - teriyaki beef brisket - sticky white rice topped with teriyaki beef brisket with shredded carrots and seasonal greens
- kids mini chicken katsu
- power juice - delicious spinach, apple and fresh ginger
- happy Emilio who loved mini chicken katsu
- wok-fried greens were perfectly cooked with some crunch
- kids yaki soba - what child doesn't like noodles?
- ebi katsu - prawns in crispy panko breadcrumbs, fresh chilli, coriander and a squeeze of lime with garlic dipping sauce on the side
- raisukaree chicken curry - mild and citrussy with coconut, red peppers, spring onion and fresh coriander
- vegan ribs certainly looked the part and were sticky, smoky and spicy
- teppanyaki - yasai yaki soba - mushroom, noodles, peppers,beanshoots with delicious fried shallots
I usually leave writing about Michelin Star restaurants to others, but not today. What wonderful news this week to hear that Justin and Jurga Sharp at Pea Porridge have been awarded a MICHELIN STAR. Such happy news for a hard working couple and their team. Bravo! It's A Pea Porridge Sunrise! (We need another poem Justin)
If they start the day by dunking a rusk into their mug of tea you'll know that you're with a true South African. Rusks in their various forms have been baked since the 17th Century. They are no longer the hard white, flour and water biscuits that sustained the Voortrekkers whilst on the move, but since commercialisation in the 1930's, and the production of the iconic Ouma Rusk, buttermilk rusks are now part of the national culture. For those who enjoy baking and live with a Saffa, me included, there's always a jar of homemade buttermilk rusks by the teapot.
Why not make some to give as a Christmas gift? Biscotti are very easy to make and keep in an airtight container for weeks. These Almond and Cranberry Biscotti are delicious but feel free to replace the cranberries in the recipe with more almonds or chocolate drops or experiment with other types of nuts of dried fruit. Just watch the temperature of the oven when drying out the biscotti so as to make sure the cranberries do not burn.
I'm trying hard to eat more salad and keep off the comfort food. Salads made with grains, pulses or seasonal vegetables are more than just about lettuce and are a great way to provide a hearty meal and a good way to incorporate some exciting herb flavours. Toasted Pearl Barley with Lemon and Herbs makes a nice change from rice. It is a little more chewy, has a delicate nutty flavour and is filling. It soaks up the bold flavours of a rich meat or vegetable stew too, if like me that's all you want to eat at the moment. So serve as you prefer, hot or cold, both work equally well.