Monday 10 March 2014

A return of sorts

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I appreciate this post will come as a surprise to many, not because of what it says but just I have actually written something on my blog for the first time in bloody ages. To be honest with you, I haven't been inspired enough to write on here lately. This is mainly down to 2 factors. Firstly, documenting meals out. I recently realised that stopping and taking photos of my food when having meals out with friends can be pretty damn annoying for your dining partner who is waiting for you to get the right shot, in bad light before the food goes cold. Plus I came to realise that being in the moment was much more important. Obviously I do still take photos when I eat out, you can see that from my instagram feed, just the thought of pulling out my SLR in a restaurant fills me with dread these days. Secondly, although I do still cook dinner most nights my meals have become less and less about using recipes and more just chuck it all in, give it a taste, add salt, cook a bit longer..add even more salt, add some chilli sauce and then get it straight onto the plate. Recently I have had some great successes but because I hurry to get the food on the table most nights I don't end up taking any notes of what I did and how much of each ingredient I added. I have also come to realise that I just don't feel very comfortable just reposting other's recipes any more, this came to light quite a while back when Dan Lepard's publisher started asking fellow bloggers to remove recipes taken from his Short & Sweet book. It made me realise that someone else had done all the hard work & sharing it without their permission was not on. So, excuses aside, where does this actually leave me? I definitely don't want to stop writing and sharing on this space but I think its time to pull my finger out and start sharing more of my own ideas. I need to go back to why I initially started writing this blog. To document recipes that did and didn't work for me and as a sort of index I could refer back to when I was stumped for what to cook that week. A first step for me will be to revisit old recipes, make and improve them with the hope that it restores some pride in this space. That will hopefully be going on in the background whilst I gradually begin to work on new posts. Bare with me, it will no doubt be slow and a bit painful (for me). I'm not going to set myself any major challenges but overall I'm aiming to post on here a lot more regularly than I have been. As always, watch this space for new Plate Lickers supper clubs as well as possibly some future solo projects too.

Monday 6 January 2014

Plate Lickers Alternative Christmas

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We're back!
 December saw the return of Plate Lickers. We never intended to take such a long break but life got incredibly busy for us both with the opening of Afternoon Tease cafe and before we knew it almost 4 months had passed. As always, planning the menu was a lot of fun & we were a little flabbergasted with the response. All the spaces were snatched up in a matter of hours and we were a little relieved that you hadn't forgotten about us! It was great seeing lots of familiar faces, and some new ones too as we welcomed them into our not so secret venue for the evening.

So Without further a do, our menu...

Guests were welcomed in from the cold with a teacup of mulled gin made with Martin Millers Gin (which was very kindly sent to us by them). Check out the recipe at the end of this post.
 Guests were treated to some sweet and spicy nuts to go with their gin as we got busy in the kitchen.

The first course a joint obsession of ours. Baked River farm smokery smoked camembert served with homemade hazelnut biscotti for dipping and a cranberry relish.
The pork belly & mushroom & pistachio roast was up next. The pork slow roasted for around 6 hours in a glaze made up of a whole bottle of bourbon, golden syrup, spices & garlic. We also bubbled up some extra glaze on the hob so guests could use it as an alternative to gravy. The vegetarian option was made with a delicious risotto base and cooked on top of lots of cranberries in a loaf tin so that when turned out the cranberries sat on top.

Both mains were served with a sprout slaw and a 'bread sauce' bread pudding. Made by infusing the milk with the same sort of spices as you would for bread sauce and then making a savoury custard to soak the bread in.

 Next up, dessert! Feeling inspired by the US and Thanksgiving we decided on sweet potato pie. I had trialled this a couple of times already with friends and it was very well received. As its a fairly heavy dessert I always thought it could do we something a little fresh so I whipped up a creme fraiche ice-cream. My first foray into ice-cream making. The ice-cream was made by first making a custard base and once cooked folding in the creme fraiche. Without a churner to hand I had to take it out of the freezer every 30 minute and mix it by hand and I was so happy that the hard work was worth it, it did exactly what I wanted it to.

Now, theres always one course I/we forget to photograph. This time around it was the stout Christmas cake paired with Wensleydale cheese. I'll be honest, I thought Jo had slightly lost it when she suggested this little number but I was very pleasantly surprised with the combo. So much so, it became my snack of choice in the days leading up to Christmas. Most guests seemed to be a little apprehensive to begin with but very little was left so I think I can safely say it was well received.

We will be back very soon, we're currently trying to work out a date for January and will be sending out the email shortly. If you're not yet signed up to our mailing list you can do so here

As promised, heres the mulled gin recipe. Perfect for the winter months!

For 2 people
You will need-
  • 100ml gin
  • 200ml apple juice
  • 4tbsp honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves
  • Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
Place all ingredients in a pan and warm slowly over a low heat. Using a peeler, peel some orange skin and add to your glass. If you have the skills, hold the orange skin over a flame to release its oils before dropping into the glass.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Plate Lickers August Party

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Summer is starting to feel like a distant memory but I wanted to share the menu & photos from our end of summer Plate Lickers party. The incredibly generous Justine & Matt of the Flying Pig pub let us take over the beer garden on a Saturday afternoon & we were even lucky enough to get an appearance from the sun. Not only were we celebrating Jo's exciting news but my mum's 60th birthday so it was lovely, if not a little nerve racking being surrounded by so many familiar faces. 

Cambridge Cropshare also very kindly shared with us some of their fantastic end of summer crop. The cucumbers were pickled with chilli and sesame, and we had lots of fun frying up the beetroot crisps.


Watermelon Margarita Ice Lollies
Courgette & Blue cheese Arancini
Jerk & Coconut Corn on the Cob
Mexican Spiced Spatchcock Chicken with Quinoa, Black Bean & Mango, Cropshare lettuce & pickled cucumber
Champagne Jelly & Macaron
Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with Black Pepper Fig Compote

Last but not least, thank you to my dad for taking these fab photos. You can see more of his photos on his flickr account

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Blank Box Coffee Giveaway

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I don't think you guys understand just how happy I am to be partnering up with Blank Box coffee this month to give away 5 Boxes of coffee!

I signed up to Blank Box 3 months ago because I loved what they offered. For those that don't know here is the breakdown. For £10 a month you receive 2x 150g bags of coffee. Every bag  is sourced by the team from small, artisanal roasteries from around the country (and this month even from Paris). The bags arrive with 2 different stamps on so you have the option to go onto their website and find out the origin of the coffee, the variety of the bean and even the altitude it was grown at. You also receive tasting notes so that you can compare them to your own. Now, I love coffee, but all of this information has always baffled me slightly. I found BlankBox to be the perfect way to learn more about coffee in general and of course also to stay stocked up with lovingly roasted coffee. I also love how fresh the coffee arrives, sometimes you may even need to rest it for an extra day or 2 before you can start brewing & I enjoy being part of the process. I personally get my beans whole and grind them as I need but you can have them delivered ready ground for whichever brewing method you use at home. I currently love my aeropress but am contemplating treating myself to a Clever coffee dripper because I just need to fill my kitchen with even more gadgets!

So, in order to be in with a chance of winning one of 5 boxes of coffee simply follow the instructions below! Winners will be chosen at random on the 4th October, just in time for the October boxes of coffee. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I have not been paid to run this competition, I am purely doing it out of love for what they do.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Umbria & Tuscany part 2

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As I mentioned in in the first post, we stayed on an Agriturismo during our time in Italy. The thing that really drew us to the farm was that it was self sufficient and that there was chance to do some hands on learning in the kitchen. On our last night Louisa let us into her kitchen and taught us to make fettuccine. I have made pasta a couple of times at home but it was much more fun learning straight from a an Italian.

 Once the pasta had a chance to dry Louisa & Francesco served us dinner under the stars where we ate our pasta with a basil & ricotta pesto washed down with their home made wine, brandy & walnut liqueur. We were even joined by some fireflies which for a moment made me think I had maybe had a glass of wine too many. The star of the show for me was their aged Pecorino, nothing like I had eaten before. They clean the casing of the cheese every day and brush it with olive oil. The red is a completely natural reaction but apparently some people cheat and brush the cheese with tomato to give it that colour. We were lucky enough to be able to into their cellar and have a look at the cheese at all the different stages.

During dinner we got talking about the sheep and before we knew it had volunteered ourselves up to get up early & help milk them the following morning.

Breakfast consisted of espresso & figs eaten straight off the tree, out of the whole holiday this is what I miss the most on a daily basis. The sheep were incredibly friendly and inquisitive and didn't seem to be bothered by the milking as were distracted by their breakfast of muesli (I will never look at my breakfast the same way again). Louisa made it look so easy, but then again she does this every morning without fail. After all the sheep had been fed and milked we followed Louisa to the kitchen. Here she showed us how she makes the pecorino using vegetarian rennet. The milk has to be brought up to a certain temperature before the rennet is added and the curds scooped out by hand into the colanders. With the remaining liquid ricotta is made. Ricotta meaning twice cooked as the milk is brought up to temperature for the second time. This is poured into a finer colander with the whey being saved to feed the animals. I thoroughly recommend going to stay with Francesco and Louisa if you fancy getting away from life's stresses and experiencing their self sufficient lifestyle.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Pine Nut Semi Freddo

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On Saturday we decided to combine our frozen course & pudding together bringing in some of our favourite Italian flavours. Jo baked the most delicious olive oil & peach cake (if you ask her extra nicely she may share the recipe) and I made a pine nut semi freddo to accompany it. Semi Freddo means half cold in Italian and is a great way of making something similar to ice-cream but without having to churn it. After trying pine nut gelato in Italy I was hooked & desperate to recreate at home.

This recipe makes enough to fill 1 loaf tin & about 8-10 portions depending on how thick you wish to slice it.
You will need

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 4 large, free range eggs
  • 500ml double cream
  • large handful of pine nuts, toasted till lightly golden
To begin, lightly oil your loaf tin and then line with cling film.

Next up separate your eggs into 2 large bowls before pouring the cream into a 3rd, medium sized bowl. If you do the whisking in this order you won't need to wash the beaters between each bowl. Begin by whisking your egg whites with a small pinch of salt till you get stiff peaks. Set aside.

Next add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat together till the mixture has almost doubled in size and is super creamy and light in colour. Set aside again.

Finally whisk the cream till soft peaks begin to form but don't over beat. Fold the cream into the egg yolk mixture and then adding 1/2 at a time fold in the egg whites. Pour around a 1/3 of the mixture into your lined tin before folding the pine nuts into the remaining mixture. Pour this in on top before gently laying an extra sheet of clingfilm on top of it all. Finally freeze for around 4 hours or till frozen solid. To serve, take the semi freddo out of the freezer about 20 minutes before serving. Turn out onto a board and slice into portions. Alternatively you could scoop it out but then it may be better to either mix the pine nuts through the whole mixture or to to sprinkle them on top after serving.

Monday 29 July 2013

Cucumber, Mint, Apple & Lime Ice Lollies

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As promised, heres the recipe for the Cucumber, Mint, Apple & Lime Ice Lolly from the Summoning the Summer Plate Lickers event.

This recipe makes enough for 10 ice lolly moulds. I bought mine through the American Amazon as I couldn't find it anywhere in the UK but you may have better luck so its worth having a look around. I'd also recommend making a smaller batch and freezing in an ice cube tray & serving in a jug of Pimms & Lemonade.

You will need
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 300ml water
  • 170g peeled & cubed cucumber
  • 350ml apple juice
  • Handful of chopped mint leaves
  • Zest & Juice from 1 lime
Begin by making the syrup. Combine the caster sugar and water in a saucepan & simmer till the sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool completely.

In a food processor combine the cucumber, mint & lime zest & juice then pulse till pureed. Next add the apple juice & syrup & pulse till combined. Pour into your lolly moulds and freeze. Its as easy as that!

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