Friday, 13 November 2015

Thai Theme Night at The Nook On The Square

Following the great success of our Italian Theme Night last month we decided to hold a Thai evening this month as our 2nd supper club.
It takes so much planning and preparation for evenings like this and, if you are ever a diner at this type of event, spare a thought for exactly how much time and effort the staff put in to ensure the best evening possible for you.  
We planned a menu with 3 starters, 3 mains and 2 desserts.
Lovely Buddha's were purchased from The Range and suited our fireplaces brilliantly. 

The back room always looks fantastic but especially tonight with the big table laid,

Back room at The Nook On The Square

I found some brilliant designs for napkin folding on Pinterest, that suited the occasion perfectly.
You can find a tutorial for this particular design through this link
Napkin Folding

They looked great on the table.

Prior to the event I did a lot of YouTube watching to learn how to carve vegetables. On the table we put a kilner jar with some rice in the base, a tealight and a carved radish and carrot leaves. A very effective center piece.  
After the tealights I got carried away with the carving!!                    I made a large center piece for our large table and 1 for the bar.

Vegetable Carving Centrepiece

I'm not sure whether I would call it therapeutic but definitely addictive and I was proud of what I achieved.
Head to YouTube if you fancy trying the art.
Vegetable Carving Centrepiece

Lots of food preparation just before we opened. Beansprouts, snakebeans, pak choi , coriander and limes to name but a few of the items in bowls.

All tables booked we eventually opened the doors at 7pm and the customers arrived table by table.
It was a successful evening, with lots of food and drink consumed, and we all gushed with pride at the compliments we received at the end of the evening.
Below is a selection of food photos that was served throughout the evening.
Chicken Satay Skewers
Chicken Satay Skewers

Tom Yum Soup,
a clear broth made with fish stock, vegetables and King Prawns. 

Thai Fishcakes with Sweet Chilli Dip -
Finely chopped white fish and prawns mixed with lime, coriander and fish paste created a gorgeous flavoured starter. Google Rick Stein's recipe to give these a try.
Thai Red King Prawn Curry was a popular dish in the evening, served with thai jasmine rice. 
Also popular was the Tamarind Duck, a sweet and sour sauce served on perfectly cooked duck. 
And for dessert my best Panna Cotta yet. Normally an Italian dessert I know but I adapted the recipe and swapped the milk for coconut milk.
Cardamom & Coconut Panna Cotta and Mango Coulis. 
The other dessert was also a big success.
Kaffir Lime cheesecake, adapted from Gordon Ramsey recipe I came across a long time ago.

Brilliant night was had by all and I finally climbed into bed shattered after a 15 hour shift!!
Planning now starts for Tapas Night!

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

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

An Italian Evening At The Nook On The Square

After several weeks of careful planning, purchasing and preparation, The Nook On The Square finally hosted its Italian Evening on September 5th.

Back of house was a little chaotic prior to opening the doors that evening. Kitchen panic with final last minute preparations, tables moved and laid at last minute and wines hurriedly discussed so staff knew what they were serving.

At 6.50pm our first customers were already waiting at the door!!
We opened finally at 7, our tables filled one by one and everything went quite smoothly.
The whole evening was such a success that some customers booked again for our next theme night.

Below is a selection of photos from the evening.

The back room ready to host the evenings event.

Sunflowers gave out warmth and sunshine on the bar in the corridor.

Pasta and plants for decoration

On each table we put a kilner jar filled with dry pasta and a tea light.

More decorations.
Breadsticks in glass vases. 
Each table was given olive oil with balsamic, olives, breadsticks, dough balls and focaccia.

Caprese stack starter 
Meatballs, tomato sauce and parmesan on rocket starter. 

Chicken in Marsala Wine with linguine 
Mushroom & Spinach lasagne, our vegetarian main course option.

Beef Ragu with Gnocchi


Lemon & lime panna cotta with raspberry coulis


The evening was such a success that Thai Night is now happening November 7th. Hopefully it will all go as well.

How To Plan An Italian Theme Night - Part 2 Preparation

 A little later than planned here is part 2 of the build up to Italian Night at The Nook On The Square - night before preparation.
Just a short post with a few photos of the food being prepared

Here's the Lemon & Lime Panna Cotta going into the fridge to set overnight.
Panna Cotta setting in the fridge

 Tiramisu - on the right the coffee soaked sponge, on the left the mascarpone topping. 
Prepping the tiramisu

Tiramisu going into the fridge to set. 

 Biscotti dough going into the oven for it's first bake 

Biscotti heading into the oven for its first bake

Biscotti dough now cooked, sliced and ready for it's second bake.
Lemon & Almond Biscotti

Lasagne straight from the oven. This one needs re heating in a microwave on the night. 
Mushroom & Spinach Lasagne

Meatballs rolled ready to cook in the oven with a tomato sauce an hour before we open the doors.


Doughballs rolled and baked.


Everything else will be prepared and cooked just before our guests arrive.

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