Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The End Of An Era As The Nook On The Square Closes

I don’t remember the exact date that Kate told me she had decided to close The Nook, though I do remember it was a Wednesday. We sat in the front room at the end of a normal working day and she said ‘there’s no easy way to say this but……..’

I could totally understand her reasons of wanting to spend more time with her small children, I had been in a similar position about 12 years ago.

My first reaction was to rent the café from her until she explained she wanted the building turned back into a family home. Again I understood.

From that day I looked at every possibility for my future. I scoured the job sites, looked at vacant retail properties and even emailed a local, empty B&B with an offer of rent. I was offered a job in a local pub so handed in my notice and, at that point, all the staff were told and then the public.

When the news finally hit Facebook I was surprised to be approached by a local café with an offer of running their newly extended kitchen, which hadn’t, as yet, been installed! It was a good offer, actually a brilliant offer, so I accepted it.

And so begins a new chapter for me.

As of June 1st 2016 I take on my new role as Head Chef at The Evergreen Art Café in Daventry.

More of that to come but for now I say a fond farewell to The Nook, Kate and all the staff I have worked with over the past 20 months. It has been a challenge, a great learning experience and a lovely ‘family’ to belong to.
Staff from The Nook On The Square, Dunchurch, Rugby

Greek Supper Club At The Nook On The Square

Rather Late in posting these photos, don't know exactly what I do with my time at the moment!
April's supper club at The Nook had a Greek theme this time. This was to be my last supper club at The Nook, but I will write more of that in my next post.
Sarah took the decision to decorate in white this time. 

The simplicity of the table worked well with a white napkin and sprig of rosemary teamed with lace and ribbon covered hessian decorated glass jars containing tea lights.

When I first mentioned Greek food straight away someone said 'stuffed vine leaves?'
I can remember my sister and friends sitting at a kitchen table years ago carefully rolling vine leaves, but it wasn't something I had ever tried.
We ordered the leaves from an online company specialising in Greek produce. I googled the process of making the 'Dolmades', as they are called, and set to work making my own.
I had made a tomato rice for the vegetarian main so I decided to use this as the stuffing mix. It would mean I could have a totally vegetarian starter which would make life easier in the kitchen during service.
Depending on the size of the leaf I used 3 or 4 overlapped in a circle and placed some of the rice mix in the center.
I folded the sides in and rolled the rest to form a neat 'cigar' shape.

To cook the Dolmades I lined a baking sheet with greaseproof paper topped with slices of tomato, this prevents the leaves sticking to the bottom and burning. I then packed all my rolled leaves in rows in the top, sprinkling chopped garlic between them.
Sprinkle with lemon juice, add some cold water and cover with oiled foil, so the vine leaves steam cook, and place in the oven for about 45 minutes.

This leads me nicely to our first starter!
As I mentioned earlier it was totally vegetarian and I anticipated it to be ordered by the majority, which it was, leaving the kitchen with a very quick and easy task of serving up.
So our starter was a vegetarian Greek Mezze Plate which showcased a selection of Greek starters.
Dolmades, Grilled Haloumi, Spanakopita (spinach & feta filo parcels), Tzatziki (a garlic & cucumber yoghurt), Roasted Peppers and Olives. What a lovely combination of food!

Our other starter was a Greek salad full of cucumber, tomatoes, onion, olives and feta cheese, all tossed in a dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. 

Our mains began with Lamb Shank Kleftico with potatoes and vegetables.
Kleftico refers to lamb being marinated in lemon, garlic and herbs then cooked in a sealed container.

Next came Salmon Fillet and Avocado Tzatziki served with a warm potato salad containing capers, feta, onion and lemon juice. 

Not the best presentation on this one now I look at the photo again but the taste was lovely.
Our vegetarian main was Feta and Mushroom Balls served with rice stuffed tomatoes and Saltsa Domatas, a Greek tomato sauce.
I loved the flavours in this, it was my favourite dish, especially the tomato rice.

And for dessert, again the photos don't do the food justice, Ekmek Kataifi, which was strands of Kataifi pastry topped with syrup, custard cream, pistachios and almonds.
I've written about the dessert in this separate post showing the different stages of making it. Lovely desserts with many different textures. 

And finally Melopita, a honey pie, similar to egg custard.
I loved this too and I didn't think I would.

Again we had some many customers that we spread the event over 2 nights and did 65 covers overall.
Feedback was great and once again 2 very successful evenings.
Ideas and recipes for the above dishes and more can be found on my pinterest board  Greek Night April

Monday, 23 May 2016

Ekmek Kataifi - A Greek Dessert

Leading up to my post for our Greek themed monthly supper club at The Nook I thought I would post a few 'action' shots taken whilst preparing one of the desserts, Ekmek Kataifi.

Kataifi is a traditional sweet Greek pastry often covered with a sweet syrup, or honey, and nuts.
Kataifi pastry is very finely shredded filo, which is made from wheat and water. I didn't attempt to make this myself but ordered it online from a Greek food supplier.  

To make this dessert I gently pulled the strands apart and covered the base of a well buttered baking dish. More melted butter was poured over the top before baking in the oven for about 20/30 minutes until golden.
One of our customers in the evening asked if the base of the dessert was made from shredded wheat as it resembled the taste and texture of the breakfast cereal.

Whilst the pastry was baking I made a syrup by boiling honey, sugar, water, lemon zest, cinnamon and cloves in a pan for about 10 minutes.
When the pastry came out of the oven, and was slightly cooled, I poured the syrup over the top and then covered with chopped almonds and pistachios.  

I whisked up some custard, green food colouring, and whipping cream and spread over the top of the nuts. Then to make this dessert totally calorific I whisked more cream with icing sugar until thick and piped on top of the custard.

A few more chopped pistachios on top and left to chill in the fridge until ready for service. 

I often hear TV chefs go on about dishes having different textures as well as taste and this dessert definitely has that. The crisp pastry, with the smooth cream and hard nuts worked brilliantly.
Definitely a success.
Take a look at my post on The Greek Supper Club for more ideas on hosting a Greek food event.
The full recipe for this dish can be found on my pinterest board
here along with all my other Greek scrapbooking ideas.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Mexican Supper Club at The Nook

Little bit late posting but March's supper club at The Nook held a Mexican theme this time.
So many customers wanted to take part that we decided to host 2 evenings this time!

Sarah, as always, in charge of decorations, went with festival colours for the napkins and table runners. I think it looks really colourful.

I can't decide whether I prefer the back room....... 

Or the front room.
What's your favourite?

Sticking with the same colour Kate produced a vibrantly coloured menu design. 
So for starters we had......
Ceviche With Shrimp.
Crushed avocado base topped with a shrimp, tomato, onion and coriander mix.  
This was definitely a best seller on both nights. 

Beef Empanada filled with a fragrant beef mix and served with soured cream.

Spring Taco With Mushrooms & Tomato Salsa.
This was our vegetarian choice and very tasty indeed.

And for the Mains........
No Mexican evening would be right without a good chilli, and we definitely produced a great chilli!
Chunky beef shin chilli served with avocado, sweet potato, homemade tortilla, sour cream and salsa.
I love the presentation of this dish, definitely one of my favourites.
We also offered a vegetable chilli option.
Our other vegetarian  dish was a roasted butternut squash filled with a Tex Mex rice mix. Lots of herbs and flavours and mixed corn and beans made this a really tasty meal.

For a slightly different fish dish....
Tuna Steak with Red Pepper & Pineapple Salsa served on a bed of Coriander Lime Rice. 

And for Dessert.......
Chocolate and Chilli Cheesecake.
A gorgeous creamy dessert with a warm chilli glow.

Cherry & Almond Chimichangas.
A tortilla filled with cherries and syrup then rolled and panfried in LOTS of butter and topped with more cherries and almonds.

Yet another successful evening or should I say 2 evenings!!!!
I'll be back with April's Greek Night very soon!
Thanks for popping by. 
Linking up this week with

Monday, 22 February 2016

French Night At The Nook On The Square

It's that time of year again when love is in the air!
It did make me smile as I walked into Tesco last Saturday morning and watched several men frantically buying bunches of roses and flowers at the entrance. It's totally commercial and thousands are spent by the public each February 14th.
With this in mind, our supper club this month at The Nook had a French theme and was moved from the beginning of the month to February 13th, Valentine's Eve!
Once again hard work, a sell out AND a great success with several compliments on the food.
So here's a few photos from the evening.

 The back room in The Nook looked very romantic with soft lighting and roses on the tables.
A little look at the front room. 

Here's the menu  
French onion pate served with gruyere pastry biscuits.
I was really impressed with the pate. I caramelised the onions for over an hour to get a beautiful sweet flavour before blending with cream cheese and beef stock. I also made a vegetarian version with vegetable stock
Mixed salad with pancetta, croutons and poached egg.
French Lavender, Red Onion, Goats Cheese Tart.  
Beef Cheek Bourguignon
Beautiful melt in the mouth beef that was marinated and treated for 3 days prior to the event and tasted out of this world.

                   Chicken Supreme served in Wholegrain Mustard and    Tarragon Cream Sauce

Ratatouille Tart Tartin

                                                                  Apple Roses
Great tutorial for this very easy puff pastry and apple dish can be found HERE on Cooking With Manuela.

Mixed Berry Clafoutis
This is a traditional baked French dessert with fruit, usually cherries but I used mixed berries, covered with a thick, flan like batter. I used a Julia Childs recipe and boy what a lovely dessert.

Baked French Chocolate Tart

We're popping to Mexico in March and already fully booked !!
Linking up this week at:

Monday, 8 February 2016

Mini Lasagne Cups

 I think spaghetti bolognaise was probably one of the first meals I learnt to cook as a child. Basic, economical and yet so tasty it still remains in my top three favourite dishes of all time.

As I grew older I learnt to use the bolognaise in other dishes, lasagne becoming another favourite meal of mine.

Over the years, in my different workplaces, I have seen lasagne to be a good seller on the menu though spaghetti bolognaise not so much so. Probably because for most it is a regular week day meal easily made at home.
So our menu at The Nook has developed a bit of an Italian theme recently and as lasagne is a good menu seller, and I love a good twist on classics, I was rather excited to come across a photo on Pinterest of Mini Lasagne Cups.
Ideal for the café menu, (and ideal to use up some filo pastry leftover from Moroccan night 😉) I put the cups on the specials board last week and yes, yet another successful meal!
Very easily made with filo pastry, basic white sauce, bolognaise, parmesan and a muffin tin.

  Cook your bolognaise first and create a white sauce. When these are both made cut your filo into 5inch squares. I used 4 squares for each cup. Brush your first pastry square with olive oil or melted butter. Turn your next sheet 90° and lay on top. Brush with oil again and repeat for the next to sheets then lift and push down into your muffin tin. Repeat this until you have as many cups that you want.

Filo Pastry Cups
The next step is to layer the ingredients as you would in a lasagne.
So I put about a dessert spoon full of white sauce in the base of each cup, followed by a spoon of bolognaise topped with some grated parmesan. Bolognaise again with white sauce on top, more parmesan and a little shake of oregano!

Prepared mini lasagne cups

Once prepared put the muffin tray in the oven on about 180° and cook for about 12-15 minutes until the filo is crispy.
Mini lasagne cups just baked from the oven
Served best with a lovely fresh side salad.
What a tasty lunch!

Mini Lasagne Cups served with salad

Mini lasagne cups served on the specials board at The Nook On The Square, Dunchurch
Linking up this week at:
Simple and Sweet Fridays
Foodie Friday and Everything Else
Cooking and Crafting With J and J

Monday, 1 February 2016

Moroccan Night At The Nook On The Square

When I had the idea of a monthly supper club way back last summer I never envisaged what it would turn into and am so astounded that each evening has been such a success.
Already we are fully booked for French night in February and Mexican in March and I haven't even written a menu yet for either!!
This month our theme was Moroccan and held at the end of the month rather than our usual first Saturday.
Once again we were full and compliments flew at the end of the evening . One diner came to the kitchen to tell me I had surpassed myself this time with the food, best one yet!! Chuffed to say the very least but oh gosh when you peak it puts so much pressure on future events.
Having said that, as much as I put a lot of work into the menus it isn't a one woman show and could never be achieved without all the staff pulling together and working extra hours to cover.

So this time we changed the style of the table settings and bought some  table runners from The Range and blue napkins instead of the usual white ones.

I do love the back room on these events when the tables are all laid and the candles are lit, it has such atmosphere and warmth 
We all brought ornaments from home as well as some bits from The Range, don't you just love that shop! 
These were Christmas tree decorations that a relative bought me years ago and never been out of the box. They worked really well hanging in the corridor.
Here's a sneaky preview of the menu 
And so to the food.
Our starters were:
Spiced Beef Filo Parcels With Harissa Yoghurt.

Carrot & Lentil Soup with Harissa served with Olive Bread.

Lemon Herb Chicken Skewers served with Lemon Coriander Yoghurt

And for the mains:
Pork & Apricot Meatballs and Vegetable Tagine

Honey Braised Lamb Shank Tagine

Spiced Vegetable Pie
(roasted squash , toasted nuts, cranberry and chickpeas in filo pastry) 

Finally desserts:
Le Russe
(meringue & chocolate ganache gateau)

(crispy filo pastry layered with custard, almonds and spiced apple compote)

As always a lot of my ideas were found online so if you fancy making anything you've seen today you can find them all stored together on my pinterest board here
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