Monday, 28 September 2015

How To Plan an Italian Theme Night - Part One

I had my first appraisal at work several weeks ago and during my chat with my boss I put forward a suggestion of starting up a monthly supper club at The Nook. She liked the idea so I set to work looking into an Italian Night.

My first point of call, as always these days, was Pinterest.
I set up a new board and searched for ideas,and inspiration, for food, drink and decorations for the event.
If you want to see my board, and things I found, follow this link

Next thing was to put together a menu. It needed to be simple as the kitchen is small, preparation time short and only me in the kitchen!
                                                            An Italian Evening At
                                                          The Nook On The Square

                                                  Bread, Olives and Oil On The Table
                                                        Lemon Basil Water on Table

                                                           Primo Piatto - (Starters)
                                                                 Minestrone Soup
                                                                   Caprese Salad

                                                       Secondo Piatto - (Main Course)
                                                  Italian Lamb Stew & Potato Gnocchi
                                        Chicken Marsala with Pasta or Mixed, Roasted Vegetables
                                                       Mushroom & Spinach Lasagne

                                                               Dolci - (Desserts)
                                 (Served with LEMONCELLO - an alcoholic Italian dessert drink)
                                                           Traditional Tiramisu
                                    Lemon & Lime Panna Cotta served with Berry Compote

                                                                      Caffe -
                                           Coffee served with Lemon & Almond Biscotti

                                                                   Bevanda - (Drinks)
                                                            Italian Red or White Wine

The menu was approved by my boss and the date set for October 3rd.
Next thing was to announce on social media and put flyers around the café.

 Now the day is fast approaching so next job is to go through the menu and make lists, and lots of them!!!
Lists for how many plates, glasses, cups, saucers and water jugs we need. Shopping lists, vegetable lists, recipe lists!
At this point I realised I had made a bit of a mistake with the minestrone soup and lamb stew as the ingredient list for both recipes was more or less the same. Good job it was noticed at this point!
Decision was made to add another starter for more choice. So now we also have meatballs!

Five days to go!
Follow my journey each day in my blog diary. Feel free to put forward any ideas in the comments box.
Thanks for popping by.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Baked Aubergine, Figs, Tomato & Leek

With all the work and research I put into the weekly menu at The Nook it is lovely when great feedback about the food is received. Our latest Trip Advisor review was much appreciated this morning and makes all the hard work put in by all the staff well worth the effort.

"Stopped for lunch on the way home, never having been to Dunchurch before. Frankly we would have settled for a standard bar meal (it was late and we were hungry) but instead we had a gorgeous quiche - thin pastry & plenty of filling, & a fabulous baked Camembert topped with sliced peach and pomegranate seeds, both delicious. We had expected an average cafe and had discovered a hidden gem.

Prices were reasonable considering the quality and as for so-called slow service - well, the staff were delightful and in our opinion food like this is well worth waiting for "

Todays light bite dish, as many of my others, I discovered on pinterest.
Dishes such as these always excite me as they are a) different, b) gluten free c) great fresh ingredients and d) vegetarian.  
Easy to prepare and quite quick to make this has been another success on the menu.

The aubergines are first prepared, and baked in the oven, topped with a scattering of finely chopped garlic, sea salt crushed black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Prepared aubergine with garlic & olive oil
When soft to touch sprinkle crumbled feta on top and return to the oven for 5 minutes whilst preparing the other ingredients.
Melt a little butter or oil in a frying pan and add some halved cherry tomatoes. As their skins blister add some thinly sliced leeks and cook for a couple of minutes.

Baked aubergine with feta topping
Take the aubergine from the oven and place the tomato and leek mix on top of the feta. Slice, or quarter, one or two fresh figs and place amongst the other ingredients.
Baked Aubergine, Feta, Fresh Figs, Cherry Tomatoes and Leeks.
 A drizzle of balsamic reduction, made by boiling up balsamic vinegar and sugar, finishes this dish off nicely. 

Baked Aubergine, Feta, Fresh Figs, Cherry Tomatoes and Leeks.
Linking up this week with:
Tasty Tuesdays
Foodie Friday and Everything Else
Simple and Sweet Fridays

Friday, 14 August 2015

Caribbean Brown Chicken Stew

  It seems very rare that I cook at home these days. My boys have grown, and fend for themselves, and, after a long day of cooking for the general public each day at work, I really can never be bothered when I get home.
The past 10 days I have been on sick leave from work. For a workaholic this is not good news, especially as the first few days found me bed bound and unable to walk. I'm now at the stage where I feel well in mind but my body is still slightly lagging behind and I'm bored!
Hopefully my return to work is imminent so my days now turn towards thoughts of new meals for the menu when I return.  
This week on the internet I came across this rather lovely dish called Caribbean Brown Chicken Stew made from lovely fresh chicken, vegetables and herbs, exactly the type of meal that would fit the café menu.
Not quite sure what makes it 'Caribbean' to be honest but I made it for my family and what a lovely, tasty meal. My son thought the chicken would also work well in a tortilla wrap.   

Lots of photos today. Cooking at home allows me more time.

Ingredient list - to serve 2-3 people

5 or 6 chicken thighs, skinned
Zest & juice of 1 Lime
4 Spring Onions, finely chopped plus 1 extra to garnish
2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 Red Chilli (or Scotch Bonnet if you like the heat) de-seeded & finely sliced
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 Red Pepper, finely chopped
4 Sprigs Thyme
2 Inch Piece Ginger, peeled & grated
3 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar
25g Butter
Tin chopped Tomatoes

This isn't a speedy dish. Allow time to marinate the chicken, at least an hour, overnight if possible to taste the full flavour.
To marinate, place the chicken pieces in a bowl and add all the ingredients except for the sugar and tomatoes. Cover with cling film and keep chilled in the fridge.
When the chicken is ready to cook, remove from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen towel. Keep the marinade to one side as this adds to the stew later.
Heat the butter in a deep frying pan ( I used my wok) and add the sugar. As it begins to caramelise add the chicken pieces and fry until you have nice caramelised bits on both sides.
Remove from the pan and set to one side.
Using the same pan, add the marinade and fry for a few minutes to soften. 
Add the chicken pieces and the tinned tomatoes and just enough water to cover the chicken. Season and simmer for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened.

 When ready serve with rice and garnish with chopped spring onion.

Definitely on the menu next week!!  
Linking up this week with:
Tasty Tuesdays
Foodie Friday and Everything Else
Sweet and Simple Fridays

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Baked Camembert With Figs, Peaches, Passion Fruit, Pomegranate & Pistachio Nuts

 The kids have finished school for the summer, and August has arrived bringing the hot weather for the holidays. Well supposedly!!
As always, in England, we have a few hot, sunny days and get all excited, and then the clouds, wind and rain burst through again.
Remaining optimistic for hot weather this week I have put a light bite meal of baked camembert on the menu. 
Baked Camembert has become quite a popular dish the past few years in pubs and restaurants.
Easy and quick to prepare, the camembert is placed in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 180° and served with crusty bread, usually on a slate or wooden board.
This is usually it, however, I spotted a gorgeous photo on pinterest this week with figs, pistachio nuts and pomegranate on top of the camembert and knew that was perfect for the café menu!
I was right, already it's been a great success, with 2 alternative toppings being served.

One version was topped with fresh, juicy peach, pistachio nuts, pomegranate seeds and my raspberry & strawberry ketchup served with crusty white baguette.

Is your mouth watering??

The second version was with fresh figs, passion fruit, pomegranate seeds, pistachio nuts topped with my tasty raspberry & strawberry ketchup.
Served on a rustic, wooden board with warm crusty baguette. 
Which version is your favourite?  

Linking up this week with:
Tasty Tuesdays
Foodie Friday and Everything Else

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

White Bean & Chicken Chilli

I can understand the concept of writers block must be truly frustrating and depressing for a person in that trade. Having to constantly be inventive, imaginative, inspiring and all in a time limit is a concept I know all too well.
We only have about 7 items on the café menu but they change each week and, every so often, I get 'chefs block' and struggle to produce the goods.

This week my struggle was with my menus hot dish. We only serve 1 a week so I try to keep customers interest with new ideas, classical twists and flavours.
I rarely look to google for my ideas, now I just stick to Pinterest. A truly amazing site where you can put together scrapbooks of all your favourite items on the internet and look at what everyone is scrapbooking.
Traditional chilli con carne is a dish that goes well at the café whenever I put it on so I got rather excited when I saw this White Bean & Chicken Chilli on Pinterest taken from a lovely blog
  The Cafe Sucre Farine .

White Beans & Chicken Chilli

A lovely little blog which I'm sure I will head back to for more ideas in the future.
Having bought all the ingredients I set about on Monday morning to put this little dish together and what a success! As always I got all the girls at work to have a taste test before going on the menu and a big thumbs up I received from them all. My only criticism was that I think I slipped with the chilli powder and cumin as it was slightly too hot for my palate. But then I am girl who only eats korma!!  

If you fancy trying this the recipe can be found here , I can honestly recommend!

White Bean & Chicken Chilli
Linking up this week with
Tasty Tuesdays
foodie fridays and everything else

And if you fancy following me on pinterest where you can find lots of new ideas you can find me Here

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

Linking up with
Tasty Tuesdays
Foodie Friday And Everything Else