Category Archives: Eating in

Scotch Eggs – another referendum

We wandered down to the Godalming Food Festival yesterday.

I overheard somebody saying it was just like Borough Market. Perhaps that was a little overstated, but it was a cracking foodie-fest on a day that seemed – briefly – almost like summer.

All of the town’s restaurants and cafes had spilled out onto the cobbled high street, along with pop-up producers of sauces, cakes and breads, local brewers, gin distillers and cider pressers, German Wurst grillers, Thai satay skewerers, Mexican burrito constructors and Sicilian arancini makers.

We succumbed to some Thai chicken satay sticks and vegetable spring rolls, eaten messily by the bins outside Cafe Nero. And we bought some enticing Scotch eggs and a poacher’s pie from Simon’s Pies to take home.

We have just devoured the Scotch eggs for an alternative Sunday lunch, one an exotic combination of chicken and tarragon, the other piquant chorizo.

But I’m worried. Really worried.

What happens to Scotch eggs in our post-Brexit world, where it’s likely Nicola will engineer a Scexit from the United Kingdom and seek direct entry for Scotland into the EU?

We may once again be able to shape our carrots and bananas entirely to suit English tastes, but will we lose Scotch eggs?

But hold on….London’s very own Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented the crisply coated savoury snack in 1738. Possibly with some inspiration from India’s nargisi kofta, but with no help whatsoever from north of Gretna Green that I – or Wikipedia – can see.

So while we’re in a mood of defiant independence, let’s take back our eggs from Holyrood, wrap ’em with 100% English sausage meat, add a coating of fried Warburton’s breadcrumbs…and call them Brexit Eggs. Or Piccadilly Eggs.

They may be able to take our seat in Brussels, but we want our savoury eggs back.

Pine Cottage Supper Club

Love food? Love the sociability of dining with friends?

But hate all the shopping, preparation, and washing up?

And there’s always that constant struggle to get the timing right, wanting to serve each course in a blaze of perfectly timed culinary glory, but without neglecting your guests.

The solution? A Supper Club.

Gill had heard about Pine Cottage Supper Club a while ago. Last night 12 neighbourly friends took advantage of the generous hospitality of Chef Snoo Powell and her husband Gary, in their beautiful home in the nearby hamlet of Hydestile.

Imagine the idyllic cottage where Cameron Diaz falls in love with Jude Law in romcom classic The Holiday, and you won’t be far off….

As Snoo says on her website:

Pine Cottage Supper Club is a new dining experience – supper clubs have been on the scene in London and other major cities for quite a while and now we have one in Godalming!

If you want to go out to eat with a group of friends to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or just the fact that spring has arrived, and fancy eating in a very informal and relaxed atmosphere, almost as if you were dining at home, then come and eat at my kitchen table. This is not a formal restaurant – more like eating at the chef’s table.

And although we all dressed formally, the evening could not have been more informal. Or fun.

Glasses of Prosecco were enjoyed in the kitchen, with some exquisite nibbles, as we got to know our genial – and remarkably stress-free – hosts.

Dinner was served at a long unfussy table in my kind of dining room. Surrounded by books. Especially travel books. This is beginning to sound a bit like Through The Keyhole. Who would live in a house like this? I just hope Keith Lemon doesn’t show up…..

The first culinary surprise was an amuse-bouche – although linguistically I prefer the more slangy amuse-gueule (pretentious, moi….?) – of creamy vegetable (courgette?) soup. Served in an espresso cup, it was sinfully calorific, I suspect, and all the better for it.

Most of us had the excellent starter of goat’s cheese and smoked salmon parcels, with rocket and lemon wedges. Although it wasn’t until later that the interesting sweetness was identified as white chocolate.

Through all the conversations and email exchanges with Snoo we’d had before the night, we’d been struck by her ideas and flexibility.

Some people don’t like fishy things? Or goat’s cheese? No problem. Enter an interesting mélange of beetroot and aubergines.

The main course was a vast platter of slow-roasted spicy pork. With perfect filling-threatening crackling. And crunchy spuds. And a week’s quota of fresh greens and vegetables. But – and imagine this in Marcus or Monica’s most portentous Masterchef voice – what really lifted the dish for me was the silky smooth apple purée, the sweetness of the fruit wrapping itself around the meaty pork and iron of the greens. Yum.

To be honest, around this stage of the evening the effects of the Prosecco, white and red wines (bring your own plonk) were kicking in. I have a sense of many sweets arriving, all good – Snoo, if you read this can you please fill in the gaps? But the taste and perfectly wobbly texture of the smoky lapsang buttermilk pannacotta will linger a while. It transported me to Italy, pronto.

The cheese board was laden with – ooh – at least 10 outstanding, and quite unusual, varieties. Bit hazy again….Snoo, any help here, please? And where did you source that great selection?

The evening was over all too quickly. For us, at least. The 5 hours had flown by, filled with an endless stream of imaginative food, laughter, conversation….and an, erm,  interesting choice of inter-course entertainment.

Snoo had offered up the piano’s ivories to be tinkled. Sadly nobody took up that option, but it epitomises the philosophy of Pine Cottage Supper Club….this is your home too for the night.

Huge – and well-fed – thanks to Snoo and to Gary. The word is out.

ps – we’ll be round soon to pick up the cars

CONTACT

Pine Cottage, Salt Lane, Hydestile, Surrey, GU8 4DH

Tel: 01483 860 318

Email: pinecottagesupperclub@gmail.com   

Snoo’s dining table can be found in her family home of over 10 years, nestled in the Surrey hills and overlooking the garden.

You can’t beat a Great Fryup

Just back from a splendid trip ‘oop north, to the Lake District in the north west and then to the North York Moors in the north east.

We stayed at two excellent B&Bs, both providing breakfasts to set us up for long, hard days exploring the Cumbrian fells and the Yorkshire moors in our faithful old walking boots.

I love a full English but even I was wilting after 9 consecutive days of fried breakfasts.

A few observations:

  • the skinny Cumberland sausage is a bit of a wimp, and not a proper man-sized banger like they serve up in Yorkshire
  • you just can’t beat a simple fried egg. Poached, scrambled, boiled – even en cocotte – have their place, but a full English breakfast without a fried egg is like an orchestra without a violin
  • baked beans are the oil that lubricates the engine: without them, the other staple ingredients are a tad too dry. Nice, obviously, but a bit hard-going. The egg yolk does its bit to reduce the density of the sausage and bacon, but for real symbiotic liquidity, it has to be beans
  • bacon should be local and treated with care. If it’s over-cooked, it detracts from the overall dish rather than adds to it. But a couple of rashers belong on the plate, as essential to the orchestra as the fried egg
  • mushrooms can be a lovely addition, especially if chopped to the right size and shape to fit with the rest of the ingredients. And they must be fresh, cooked in just a little butter and definitely still al dente, rather than limp
  • tomatoes can cause arguments. I’m talking about small, fresh ones obviously. Never, ever open a tin and plonk those on the plate next to the other sacred ingredients. Some people like a few small halved fresh tomatoes, grilled and with some herbs sprinkled on their shiny skins. I don’t
  • hash browns. These are American potato concoctions and should NEVER find their way onto a plate with a full English breakfast

Loosen your belt a notch or two by the third day.

And marvel that there really is a place called Great Fryup on the North York Moors. And little Fryup Dale for the small eaters.

 

 

 

Partnerships

Lunch today was a marriage made in culinary heaven: a humble bacon & avocado sandwich, common and yet regal in its symphony of different flavours and textures.

The avocado was ripe enough to slide off its rounded stone without the usual messy palaver. The thin layer left inside its mottled skin was spreadable on the fresh wholemeal bread, with the rest sliced like a moist Braeburn apple for a pie filling.

Slightly salty back bacon had been fried in its own fat – untainted by other oils – until just turning that slight tint of burnt brown that Masterchef says is the perfect finish for the ubiquitous scallop.

The crinkled rashers were eased onto the ridged avocado slices, and into the healthy wholemeal, as comforting as sliding under a warm duvet after a hard day at work. Except that there’s unlikely to be a generous smear of brown sauce in bed, that final ingredient making a bacon & avocado butty such a comforting foodie blanket.

An unlikely partnership perhaps, but a classic example of success through unholy alliances.

What unexpected combinations work for you, I wonder….?

 

Internet eating

However did we live without this magical interweb thingy?

If we’ve got a few things left in the fridge that we need to use up before they start walking out the door, Gill will Google the random ingredients and – eureka! – out pop a load of off-the-wall recipe ideas.

Plug in celery, ham, spinach, for example and here’s a great idea:

Celery, ham & spinach gratin

Or the other night I stumbled across a very tasty blog called Deliciously EllaElla suffered from a rare illness which badly affected the quality of her life. After conventional medicine failed to improve her condition, she researched more natural options.

Eating a whole foods, plant-based diet – giving up all meat, dairy, sugar, gluten, anything processed and all chemicals and additives – was a drastic but successful solution for her.

Now Ella is sharing her recipes online and I cooked the warming winter curry a couple of days ago. We already had Gill’s allotment spuds resting in the garage, carrots & spinach in the fridge and spices & chopped tomatoes in the larder.  I just needed to buy some cannellini beans and coconut milk from Sainsburys and, a blizzard of peeling, chopping and boiling later, we were enjoying a vibrant, healthy and tasty curry.

curry2blog

In days gone by we’d have grabbed a gravy-stained cookbook off the shelf for inspiration, but in this digital age the world is literally our lobster, Rodders.

And now that we’re not working, Gill and I need to make sure nothing goes to waste.

Thank you, interweb thingy.