Monday, 13 July 2015

The Alternative Caprese Sandwich

Enter into any eating establishment and ask for a sandwich and you would expect to receive your chosen filling in between two slices of bread, and rightly so.
This week we had on the cafe menu mozzarella, basil, tomato and pesto on warm ciabatta as our sandwich of the day, as shown below.

Mozzarella, Basil, Tomato and Pesto on warm Ciabatta
One customer's order I received this week had the strange request of the sandwich but with the filling on the side. It's always hard when customers request changes as a chef serves any dish their own way and it's not always easy to interpret exactly what the customer is asking for, if that makes sense.

Charging the same as the sandwich on the board I also had to ensure I didn't get carried away putting more ingredients on the plate. Good for the customer but not good for the business profits. As one of my previous managers always stated "we are a business not a charity".

So, using the same amount of ingredients but spreading them out to fill the plate, I placed the mozzarella and tomatoes in layers on a small bed of rocket with basil leaves tucked in between, and the pesto in a small dish on the side. The oven warmed ciabatta was sliced and placed on the side.
Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil and Pesto with Ciabatta
The result looked lovely and the customer was happy that her request had been executed to how she wanted it.
For me I thought what a novel and alternative way to serve a sandwich this way in a cafe. I do love doing things differently, and with a twist.

The Alternative Caprese Sandwich
I wonder if all customers would be happy with this alternative way of  serving the cafe sandwich.
Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil, and Pesto with Warm Ciabatta.
The Alternative Caprese Sandwich

Monday, 6 July 2015

Goats Cheese Summer Salad, With Potato Rosti & Damson Ketchup

Do you ever have food you're not ready to use at the moment so put it in the freezer then totally forget about it for ages? Well, whilst cleaning out the freezer at work this week I came across a tub of frozen damsons that must have been stored away last summer and forgotten about.
Needing freezer space I defrosted them and boiled them up with some onions, brown sugar, red wine vinegar and spices until thickened, then strained until a beautiful ketchup was formed.
Discussions then began at work as to what to serve it with.
One of the girls suggested goats cheese, and at that point the cogs in my head started turning!!
Damson ketchup, goats cheese, broad beans, smoked bacon, roasted tomatoes, rocket served on potato rosti. This combination sounded like fun, so I got to work creating the dish, and boy did it turn out well.

Damson ketchup, goats cheese, broad beans, smoked bacon and roasted cherry tomatoes on potato rosti

Potato rosti isn't probably your usual ingredient for a salad. Quite interestingly Rösti is a Swiss dish consisting mostly of grated potato. Originally it was served as a farmers breakfast and then as a side dish to accompany a main meal.
For my rosti I used white potatoes, chopped chives and spring onions.

Ingredients for potato rosti. Potato, chive and spring onion.
First job is to grate the potato, wrap it in a clean tea towel and tightly squeeze so that all the water from the potato comes out. 
Grated potato in a tea towel to remove the water content.

Put the potato in a bowl and mix in the chive and spring onion and season with salt and pepper. I added an egg as well at this point to help bind the mix although recipes I've looked at don't seem to. Your choice!

Grated potato, chive and spring onion mix

Melting some butter in a frying pan I packed a mould tight with the potato mix and cooked for about 5 minutes on the hob.
Frying the rosti
After 5 minutes I removed the mould and turned the rosti over and cook for a further few minutes.
When browned both sides I removed from the pan  and put on a tray in the oven at 175° with a slice of goats cheese and some cherry tomatoes.

Browned potato rosti

While all that baked in the oven I fried off, in a pan, some chopped smoked bacon and pre-cooked broad beans.
That done I put all the ingredients together on a wooden board, for that rustic effect.

Goats cheese and potato rosti salad.
I placed the rosti in the centre of the board and sat the goats cheese on top. Some rocket then spread around and the bacon and broad beans scattered on top with the roasted cherry tomatoes.   
As well as some of  my ketchup served in a side dish I also put some in a squeezy bottle and drizzled from side to side over the whole dish
A scattering of chopped parsley and this dish has wowed all our customers this week.
Let's see if it wows you!!  

Damson ketchup, goats cheese, potato rosti salad with broad beans, smoked bacon and roasted cherry tomatoes

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Kedgeree For Sunday Brunch

This week I experienced my first ever work appraisal. Having been in catering for 30 years it's not something any establishment I've worked in has done, but I found the experience to be a good one and, from it, I took new enthusiasm.
One of the questions was what I liked or disliked about my job. My main like was menu planning, and the fact that I have freedom to change our lunchtime menu weekly. It keeps me motivated, stops the boredom and increases my knowledge of new foods.
One of my dislikes was cooking breakfasts! Bit of a hard one that considering the amount of breakfasts I cook weekly. But the challenge of cooking, watching for burnt toast, overdone eggs, then putting several different elements on a plate at one time can be an extremely hard, tedious and boring daily job.
After discussing my dislike with Kate she suggested looking into breakfast specials to keep my motivation going, especially on a Sunday when we serve brunch all day long.
With this in mind I took to Pinterest, my trusted idea search website to look for inspiration.
So I typed in 'Breakfast' and amongst many ideas that appeared was the dish Kedgeree.
I loved the sound of it so looked further for some good recipes.  

Smoked Haddock Kedgeree
Brunch at The Nook On The Square

I don't have many memories of school, especially not good ones, but I have a distant memory of making Kedgeree once and remembered it contained rice, fish and eggs. Oh yes and the rice was yellow!!!
Looking now into the origin of Kedgeree I was interested to learn that it is of Indian origin, so contains spices, and, it seems, the addition of smoked haddock and boiled eggs appeared when the dish came to England. It is a dish enjoyed hot or cold.
I took a little of each recipe I looked at and here is my version of the mixed rice dish.
All components were cooked first then put together in a pan as and when a customer ordered it.
Below I have fragrant basmati rice, cooked with a couple of teaspoons of turmeric in the water to change the colour from white to yellow, cooked and flaked smoked haddock, boiled eggs, finely chopped red onion and fresh tomato and a pot of blended spices and herbs.

Ingredients for Kedgeree
With all ingredients prepared I melted a knob of butter in my pan with a handful of red onion, tomato and a teaspoon of my blended herbs and spices.
After cooking for a few minutes I added a portion of rice. The rice seemed to stick to the pan so  I added more butter and a little water although, after more research into the dish, next time I would add a little cream at this point.
Fry the onion and tomato on butter.
With the rice sizzling nicely I added the haddock and boiled eggs. 
Kedgeree cooking in the pan
As soon as all the ingredients were hot to touch, over 75° if you have a thermometer I served into a warm bowl with a small dish of natural yoghurt.   
Smoked Haddock Kedgeree
Brunch at The Nook On The Square

Decorated with chopped coriander, wedge of lemon and a sprinkling of cumin on the yoghurt this was a welcome addition to the Sunday Brunch menu last week at The Nook.
Looking now for more breakfast ideas, what's your favourite?

Brunch at The Nook On The Square
Smoked Haddock Kedgeree

Ingredients for this lovely dish for 2 people are:

1lb Cooked and flaked Smoked Haddock
8oz Fragrant Basmati Rice, cooked in couple teaspoons of turmeric to turn yellow
3 Hard Boiled Eggs
Knob butter
1/4 Pint Cream
Salt & Pepper to Taste.

Herbs and Spices Blended In Processor:
Small Red Chilli
Clove Garlic
1ins  Ginger
Handful Coriander
1 Tbsp Curry Powder
1/2 Squeezed Lemon Juice

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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Broad Bean And Basil Pate

It's a short harvesting season for Broad Beans, also known as Fava Beans, I learnt this evening, spanning from late May to early September.
Known as King of all beans they have a flavour smoother, sweeter and richer than all beans. According to Hannibal Lecter they are eaten well with liver and a nice bottle of Chianti!

Broad Beans, also known as Fava Beans.
Here at The Nook we like to work with seasonal food on the weekly menu.
This week I sought inspiration to use these fine beans for a dish and attempted a new pate, and boy the result was lovely.  

Broad Bean and Basil Pate accompanied by Mushroom Pate, Humus and Various selection of breads.

As with my mushroom pate I sweated some onion and garlic with butter in a pan then added some boiled broad beans. Unlike Hannibal Lecter I didn't reach for the chianti, instead I poured some pinot grigio in the pan with some basil leaves and allowed it to reduce down.
After allowing it to cool a little I placed the mixture into the processor with some cream cheese and seasoning and whizzed together.
I left to set overnight and it turned into a lovely smooth paste and soooo tasty.

Broad bean and basil pate on todays menu
The pate served up nicely in a bowl and accompanied on a rustic board with my chestnut mushroom pate, hummus and salad. On the side I served pitta bread, toasted focaccia and baked shortcrust pastry biscuits.
A big winner on the menu this week, I definitely recommend giving it a try .    
Broad Bean and Basil Pate

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Monday, 15 June 2015

The Good Food Show NEC Birmingham June 2015

Last weekend saw the annual 'Good Food Summer Show' arrive at the NEC Birmingham.
For the past 3 years my interest in food has grown immensely and when I received tickets for the show as a birthday present I was really excited at the prospect of an interesting, educational and inspiring day out. 8

The Good Food Show at NEC Birmingham June 2015
Lots of people made the journey to Birmingham. There were many stalls ranging from oils, pastries, artisan breads, sweets, wines and spirits.
Crowds gather to the NEC Birmingham for The Good Food Show

This section was cakes and bakes.  
Cakes and Bakes section of The Good Food Show NEC Birmingham
 Meringues to die for!

Flapjacks of all varieties.
My favourite had rocky road topping.


                                     Enormous éclairs.

Sponge cakes. Sticky toffee sponge was delicious.
Individual sponge cakes

                            Various flavours of focaccia
Artisan focaccia at The Good Food Show

This man was demonstrating and selling whisks. He was quite the salesman and always had a crowd around him to entertain.

Spiralised vegetables and fruit, wow!! A very entertaining German was demonstrating how to transform vegetables.. I must confess to buying a spiraliser.
Spiralised fruit and veg at The Good Food Show
As we walked round I spotted tv chef  Phil Vickery doing a demonstration so we stopped to watch.

It was so interesting to listen to stories of his travels and listen to the food knowledge he shared.

Phil Vickery demonstrating at The Good Food Show
At 4pm we headed to the main theatre to be entertained and inspired by another tv chef, James Martin. In the space of half hour he treated us to a show producing 4 dishes, food knowledge and rather witty banter!
James Martin at the NEC Birmingham June 2015

I was rather intrigued at how much butter James used in all his dishes. Definitely not healthy eating but a great show.

James Martin at The NEC Birmingham
Our tickets also included entry into Gardeners World so we spent our last hour walking around the flower displays. Below are a selection of my favourites.
                              Al fresco dining display.

                             An English Garden display.

I don't know what these were but so so beautiful.

Brilliant day out and our tickets are valid for Novembers show as well. Looking forward to another lovely day out .

Linking up with:
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Foodie Friday and Everything Else  

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Bloody Mary King Prawn Salad

As a child growing up in the 70s it was a rare treat to eat out in a restaurant. When I was lucky enough to have that treat from my parents the only thing I would ever order would be a prawn cocktail starter followed by scampi, chips and peas.
Prawn cocktail is now described as such an iconic food from the 70s. Ask anyone for a description and the information you would receive would include a glass dish for serving, shredded lettuce topped with prawns bound in the classic marie rose sauce, made basically from mixing mayonnaise and ketchup, a wedge of lemon and a dusting of paprika. Classic!
Classic, retro or 70s, however you describe it you cannot deny it still remains as popular as ever, although modern times have moved the basic style on and added twists to it.

The Iconic 70s dish Prawn Cocktail
This weeks salad at The Nook On The Square demonstrates one of these twists. True it's not a starter but a light main meal but we begin the process the same with a lettuce base. Covering the lettuce is a mixture of onion, gherkins, olives, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, celery and avocado. Amongst all this dotted around are some sauce covered King Prawns and a lovely big wedge of lemon.

A twist on the classic prawn cocktail  - Bloody Mary King Prawn Salad at The Nook On The Square
As for the twist on the Marie Rose sauce, well, mix mayonnaise, ketchup, squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper, Tabasco, and a shot of Vodka and there you have Bloody Marie Rose Sauce. We served it in a shot glass to
a. look like a drink &
b. reflect the iconic starter by using a glass for service!
Bloody Mary King Prawn Salad at The Nook On The Square
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Monday, 8 June 2015

The Humble Hash

In the years during, and post, World War 1 and 2, and for several years to follow, the humble Hash dish was a popular meal in most households due to the basic, low cost ingredients.
The traditional dish comprises of chopped and diced meat, potatoes, spices and onions.   Due to rationing limiting the availability of fresh meat in the war years corned beef became a popular meat in the dish.
It isn't a dish I ever fancied much as I'm not a great lover of corned beef, but it seems that new variations are developing and becoming more popular on restaurant menus.

One variation I have come across recently is Smoked Salmon Hash.
We had an excess of salmon in the fridge at work so I took a look through Pinterest for ideas on how I could use it and come across the hash dish.
So quick and easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious. This dish now appears regularly on our lunch menu and is always popular.

Smoked Salmon Hash Topped With A Poached Egg and Served With Salad.

For each person allow:
1 1/2 potatoes (par boiled and diced 1/2in squares)
2 slices smoked salmon (cut into small thin slices)
Handful finely chopped red onion and red pepper
Capers (amount according to taste)
Chopped dill
S&P to taste.
25g butter
1 or 2 poached eggs

In a frying pan melt butter and throw in the potatoes, onion and pepper. Fry until the potatoes start to brown and crisp, then add salmon, capers, dill, salt and pepper.
Cook for a further couple of minutes and serve topped with 1 or 2 poached eggs. I added a side salad when serving and a wedge of lemon.

As the salmon hash is so popular on the menu I decided to have a go at a breakfast hash as a Sunday morning breakfast special at The Nook this week.
Promoted by our waitress Sarah once again it proved to be a big hit with diners and I sold several portions.

Breakfast Hash with Potatoes, Sausage, Bacon and Smoked Applewood Cheese, Topped With 2 Poached Eggs

For each person allow:
1 1/2 potatoes (par boiled and diced into 1/2in squares)
Handful diced red onion and red pepper
1 cooked sausage (cut into small pieces)
1 rasher cooked bacon (cut into small pieces)
25g - 50g smoked applewood cheese (grated or chopped)
S & P
25g butter
1 or 2 poached eggs.

In a frying pan melt butter and throw in the potatoes, onion and pepper. Fry until the potatoes start to brown and crisp, then add the sausage, bacon,salt and pepper.
Cook for a further couple of minutes then scatter the Applewood over the top and grill for a minute until melted. Serve topped with 1 or 2 poached eggs and parsley.

For my next trial recipe I am going to swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes and use Spanish and Italian meats, herbs and spices.

For perfect poached eggs use this method -
Fill a non stick frying pan with water and boil to just before boiling point. Crack each egg into a cup first then slide it into the water. Turn off your heat and add a lid to the saucepan, then set your timer for 4 minutes.
Remove the lid and serve - nothing could be easier!
And there you have it,

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Foodie Fridays and Everything Else