Wednesday, 11 December 2013

More Christmas Cake Designs

Last batch of christmas cakes for Radmore Farm Shop!
Now to start on the mince pies!!
Snowflake and Star design christmas cake

Snowman design christmas cake

Holly wreath design christmas cake

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Homemade Christmas Cakes

It's that time of year again for mince pies, christmas pud and traditional christmas cake.
Vicky made the cakes and gave me the task of icing and decorating. This task was right up my street!!
Lots of research on the net first at christmas cake images for ideas. Then I went to a local cook shop looking for cutters. Then, armed with creative ideas, I set to work!
Below are my first 8 designs on the smaller cakes.

Simply white with snowflakes and bow

Christmas tree and snowflakes

Holly, berries and merry christmas

Christmas wreath and white bow

Christmas wreath and white bow

Christmas tree and presents

Christmas tree, presents and stars

Simply snowflakes

Christmas tree and snowflakes

Christmas tree and snowflakes
What's your favourite?

Christmas Party

Last Thursday saw the first of our christmas parties.
The local bell ringers joined us at The Old Red Lion for an evening of fun and gorgeous christmas fayre.
Very successful evening and I managed to capture a few shots of the food.

Smoked salmon, red onion marmalade and cream cheese tart

Parsnip,apple and chestnut soup

Basil roulade

Stilton mushrooms and ciabatta


Baked ham and roast vegetables
Chocolate and chestnut torte

Pear and ameretto cheesecake

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Homemade Christmas Pudding

I can remember as a child going to my aunts every christmas with the whole of my family, (she had a BIG house!), and 20 of us would sit around the dining table after a large turkey roast awaiting the arrival of THE Christmas Pudding! The lights were extinguished as my aunt carried in the flaming pudding and everyone applauded the event. Then we each would have a slice with brandy sauce or butter and hope that we would be one of the few rewarded with a silver 2 1/2p that had been cooked within the pudding. If you found a coin it was considered to bring you luck, unless, of course, you found it whilst choking on it!!!!
Happy days for me but I have to admit as I grow older I am a bit Bah Humbug with the whole christmas event. It's a lot of planning and expense for just one day and, personally, I think it's been spoilt by the commercial side of it and people starting everything too early. My friend reported yesterday that a house in her street is already displaying their christmas decorations!
Having said that I love a new cooking challenge and this year, at The Old Red Lion, it has been decided to make our own christmas puddings for our festive menu.
It's a long winded process but the results are well worth your patience so why not give it a try and impress the family on christmas day.
First job was to find a recipe. We chose this "Cook Britain" book by Sainsburys for ours.
Lots and lots of ingredients to purchase first! (See below for list of what you need)
Cookbook Containing the recipe
First part of planning was to soak currants,raisins,sultanas,mixed peel and figs in a solution of fresh orange juice and zest, stout and ameretto together with nutmeg,cinnamon and mixed spice. This was left overnight for a good soak.
Soak the fruit overnight
Next day I weighed out all the remaining ingredients needed. Easier way of doing things so everything can be quickly put together.
Weighing out the ingredients
For the first stage I melted some butter and brown sugar in a pan and added pecan nuts,mixed peel,glace cherries and flaked almonds and mixed to coat.
Preparing the topping
I then placed in the base of my greased pudding case.
Filling the bowl with the topping
All the other ingredients were then mixed  thoroughly into the bowl of soaked fruit and added to the pudding bowl, packing it in tightly. The next stage is to cover the top ready for steaming with greaseproof and foil in a tight manner, so as to avoid any water getting in.
I went to youtube at this point as I wanted to make sure I did the job properly. Check out this link on the BBC food website
I found it great information.
Wrap very tightly so no water gets in
Puddings prepared, I placed them in a pan with an inverted plate in the bottom and filled with boiling water to half way up the pudding bowl. I then covered with a tight fitting lid and left to steam for 6 hours, checking every hour to see if the water needed topping up.
Cooking the pudings
The long wait over I removed from the pan, took the foil lid off and put on a rack to cool.
Cooling down the puddings
The moment of truth came when I tipped them out of the pot and wow was so pleased at the final result. They looked just like the picture in the cookbook!!
Wrapped in greaseproof and foil, these puddings will last up to 2 months. How's that for forward planning for christmas!
The finished article!
If you would like to try these for yourself I have listed the ingredients below.
Go on, give them a go!
Beautiful glazed topping

Soak in a bowl overnight:
100g raisins
100g sultanas
100g currants
75g chopped dried figs
25g mixed peel
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice
1/2tsp nutmeg
200ml stout
2 tbsp ameretto
1 orange, zest and juice

For the topping:
25g melted butter
25g dark brown sugar (melted with the butter)
25g flaked almonds
50 pecan nuts
25g chopped glace cherries

Other ingredients to add to the fruit mixture AFTER it's overnight soak. Mix together well.
100g vegetable suet
2 medium eggs, beaten
50g plain flour
100g natural breadcrumbs
225g dark brown sugar

This mixture will fill a 1.2litre greased pudding bowl. I used 3 smaller ones.

Monday, 4 November 2013

New Menu Launch

As the weather turns much colder, and the leaves fall from the trees, it is time to move on from our summer menu and create something new to take us through the winter at The Old Red Lion.
It takes a while to create something special for our customers.Many hours spent looking through cook books for ideas, googling ideas and thinking what accompaniments work well with each dish. Then, armed with ideas, ingredients are bought and we make each meal to ensure sure it looks and tastes nice.
After several weeks of ideas and trials, finally, on Friday evening, we officially launched our new menu.
The whole weekend went really well. Most main course dishes were ordered, though sadly, not many starters, and the feedback received was really positive.
Great news for us, and if you fancy having a peek at a few things we have on offer, scroll down the page and see if anything takes your fancy!

Sundried Tomato Hummus served on a bed of vegetables roasted in soy sauce with rosemary and basil and accompanied by handmade mini heart shaped pittas.

Courgette & Sweetcorn Pancake Stack filled with melted mozzarella and roasted peppers.

Tuna Steak served on a bed of lime & herb butter noodles and wilted spinach, topped with a tropical fruit salsa of mango and papaya.

Peppered Fillet Of Beef Steak serve on layers of potato rosti and roasted peppers and topped with a creamy peppercorn sauce.

Chicken, Choritzo & Prawn cooked in a tomato and basil cream sauce served on Fusilli Lunghi and accompanied with mini, handmade, heart shaped garlic bread.

Venison Steak cooked in blackberry sauce and served on dauphinoise potatoes with sprouting broccoli.

Halloumi Filo Parcel with zesty chilli middle, served on a bed of sweet potato & sesame mash with marinated olives.
Duck Breast cooked in a spiced red wine & redcurrant sauce served on garlic and parmesan mash and ribbons of vegetables.
So have I tempted your taste buds?
 Hope so!

Friday, 20 September 2013

What's Cooking In Your Kitchen Tonight?

Apparently there was an article yesterday in a national newspaper (Daily Telegraph I think) about how we, as a nation, eat the same meals at home each week. It's a conversation that seems to pop up quite often and I remember, a few years ago, Jamie Oliver commenting that most people could do their weekly shop with their eyes closed as they buy exactly the same food items week in and week out.
Desite having quite a few diverse culinary skills at work, I hold my hand up to being one of these people! When I look at what we eat at home I can honestly say each week we have at least one mince meal (bolognaise,chilli or cottage pie), one stew, one stir fry,two convenience frozen meals and possibly one takeaway or a meal at the local pub.So tonight I decided to do something different at home!
Getting my wok out, and heating a small amount of olive oil in the bottom, I added some diced chicken fillet and chopped red onion and fried for a few minutes. To this I added some mild curry powder and tons of chopped vegetables from the bottom of the fridge. Baby corn, green beans, courgette,samphire and spinach gave this meal not only a vibrance of colour but a great deal of nutrition. To the wok I then added a 400g tin chopped tomatoes and 1/4pt vegetable stock and left to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Cooking the curry
Just before serving I stirred in some coriander leaves (oh how I love coriander!) and then served up with some small roasted potatoes and naan bread.

Chicken & vegetable curry, roast potatoes and naan bread
It was lovely! Even my boys said how much they enjoyed it, although I did spot some courgette left on the side of one of the plates!
The only downside was that the house stank of curry all evening!!!
So what's cooking in your kitchen tonight??

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Mushroom, Pesto & Halloumi Filo Parcels

What do think of if I say the words "Buffet Food" to you?
For most of you I bet the first thing to come in your head was either sandwiches or sausage rolls?
Funny how traditions are passed down through the ages.Sometimes though it's fun to experiment with new ideas and this is just what I did for last weekends buffet at The Old Red Lion, Litchborough.
Simple, but really effective, and certainly tasty, these mushroom, pesto and halloumi parcels went down really well with the guests and could also easily be considered as an ideal starter for a vegetarian dinner guest.
I layered 4 sheets of filo pastry on top of each other, brushing each one with melted butter, and cut into squares for the parcels. Then I fried off some chopped mushrooms and garlic in butter, stirred in a spoon of pesto and added diced halloumi. Into the centre of each pastry square I put some filling, then brushed the 4 sides with beaten egg and gathered all sides together to form a money bag shape.
3-4 minutes in the deep fat fryer at 180C and they were ready.


Preparing the filo parcels

Mushroom, pesto and halloumi filo parcels

Very pleased also with the photos from my new camera! 

Mushroom, pesto & halloumi filo parcels
As for following tradition, well yes we do that too!
Delicious homemade sausage rolls.

Sausage rolls
Olive, cheddar and cherry tomato on cocktail sticks.
Olive, cheddar and cherry tomato
Scotch eggs made from our own eggs and sausage meat from the farm and proper breadcrumbs.
Scotch eggs

Mini tarts too.
Mini quiches and red onion and cream cheese tartlets
So what's your favourite?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Steak & Ale Pie with Bubble & Squeak Topping

If you are a regular reader to my blog you will know that in June The Old Red Lion entered into The Northampton Food & Drink Awards for 2013/2014 in 3 categories. You can read about it here if you missed the feature before.
Well, we were unsuccessful with a couple of our entries but very pleased to announce our Steak & Ale pies with Bubble & Squeak topping have made it through to the final 4 in The Artisan Product Of The Year. How great is that?!
After reaching the final our next stage of judging was to make 6 small individual pies to be judged by a small panel and also 200 tasting samples for a food festival held on September 7th.
We're in the final!

It's not often I make large pies but, in this case, it was the easiest and quickest way to produce 200 samples. So I got to work lining the bases with pastry.
Pie Bases
Whilst preparing the pastry I had the steak and ale mix cooking. This takes a good couple of hours so that the meat melts in your mouth!
Steak and Ale pie mix
Then lots of bubble and squeak topping to prepare.
Bubble & Squeak
Then finally putting it all together and baking in the oven.
Steak and Ale Pies for sampling
The food festival was held in a small local village called Weedon Lois and accompanied Weston and Weedon Horticultural Society's annual produce and flower show.
It was quite interesting to walk around the marquee and see what people had spent their year growing.
Look how big the onions were!!
A selection of produce at The Weston & Weedon Horticultural Show
Very weird looking carrots!
Weird shaped carrot

I personally was fascinated by these miniature gardens. Lots of thought and patience went into creating these.

miniature garden

Miniature garden
After looking round the show, and before leaving, I couldn't help but pop back to the gazebo hosting tastings for the food and drink competitions to see how it was all going.
Samples of steak and ale pie for tasting and judging.
My pie had been dished up for people to try and comment on.
Samples of steak and ale pie for judging
This man was quite happy to give me his point of view. In his opinion the pastry was lovely but the product lacked enough pepper. His comments were taken on board!!
Food tasting at Weedon Lois

So now we wait!
 On October 17th an awards dinner will be held in Northampton for all finalists to attend and the winners announced. Fingers now tightly crossed!