Tomato and Chilli Jam

Spring 2016 183Tomato and chilli jam is one of my all time favorite fridge staples. I’ve made so many versions over the years I’ve pretty much lost count. The latest has certainly got my attention. This one is made of fresh tomatoes and has the curious addition of star anise giving it a surprising depth and Asian feel. It’s a beautiful bright red , thanks to the fresh tomatoes and is very much a ‘jam’ as opposed to sauce. I use it randomly, it’s just a great little party trick to pull out of the fridge to transform a rather dull lunch or cheese sandwich. In the most extraordinary of circumstances it has even been known to grace our breakfast table to add a little spice to my avocado and egg creations (that’s the food hangover from Istanbul I just can’t kick). I really love it and with the sun shining and bathing my little London world in glorious rays I can’t help dreaming of summer and thinking this is the perfect bbq condiment for 2016 !

Tomato and Chilli Jam

500gms organic tomatoes chopped into dice

2 star anise

2 cardommon pods crushed

1 red chilli finely sliced

2 garlic cloves finely sliced

3cm piece of fresh ginger finely sliced

130gm white sugar

100ml cider or white wine vinegar

  1. Put all the ingredients into a heavy based saucepan and stir. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 45 minutes – 1 hour until the jam has thickened and holds its shape.
  2. Pour into a sterilised jar, remove the star anise and keep in the fridge.




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Kale Pesto

Kale, once beloved by livestock is now top of my list of go to veg at this rather bleak time of year. I’ve been using it with abandon over the last 6 weeks and have come up with some really rather lovely recipe combinations. It ticks the healthy box in spades and is cheap, readily available and very satisfyingly green! I’ve sneaked it into all sorts of dishes, from soups to salads, smoothies to sauces. I prefer it to spinach as it goes a lot further, and though I like chard, I find it more versatile and a little less earthy. The ‘little people have been eating it disguised in pasta, and positively lap it up – oh where would we be without the magic vehicle of pasta?  Mr.P has been subjected to my absolute favorite, kale pesto on several occasions, ‘It’s very green darling’ he says nervously. And green it is, but with the subtle addition of garlic, chilli and anchovy and the magic ingredient of walnuts it’s a refreshing change from the normal pesto and a seasonal winner stacked with countless vitamins and other goodies.

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Kale and Walnut Pesto

180g of organic kale (woody stems removed)

2 cloves of garlic peeled

3 anchovy fillets

1 cm of red chilli finely chopped

200ml of good quality olive oil

30g of walnuts

  1. Put the kale in a bowl and pour a kettle of boiling hot water over the kale – leave for 4 minutes and then drain.
  2. Meanwhile splash a tablespoon of oil into a pan and cook the garlic, chilli and anchovy very slowly so the flavours are released but the garlic does not burn.
  3. Drain the kale and put in the sauce pan with the garlic, chilli and anchovy. Stir several times and remove from the heat.
  4. Put all the ingredients in a liquidizer or a nutribullet with the remaining olive oil and walnuts and whizz until you have a very smooth, velvety sauce. Serve with pasta and lashingsj of Parmesan.Spring 2016 194


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Notes from a ‘Wild Wood Party’

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The ‘wild wood’ party actually took place a rather humiliatingly long time ago. Back in the dark days of November the ‘blue’one turned the almighty age of 6. It’s such cliche to say it, but where does the time go? I look at the photo taken of him on the day he was born and can’t quite believe we are 6 years down the line, reading, writing, hating maths and wanting to give up school for Lent – genius idea but totally impractical! This birthday we decided to go solo and organize the party ourselves. From the parties I had been to recently, the most fun,  most laughter and most enjoyment seemed to be from those where the parents were really actively involved. Mr.P embraced the brief and got ordering, oh the joys of online shopping and I got baking! Walter had decreed a ‘Wild Wood’ party would be the order of the day and a decree went out.

It was a pretty nippy November day but nothing to stop some serious camp building, bonfires and bangers. Toasting marshmallows was understandably very popular nothing quite beats ramming a fat one on a long stick and plunging it into the fire; as was alot of running around and stopping the enemy from ambushing the camp. When fingers started cooling down we moved to the archery arena (what could possible go wrong – after all we were only of in the company  16 five to six year olds). Thankfully arrows were kept away from eyes and tea was soon on the menu. I can’t say I have become any more adventurous in this department since when I first started cooking my little peoples birthday party teas. There are without any shadow of doubt some firm favorites, and low and behold the blue one certainly was not going to deviate from them now! Bangers, baby burgers, the age defying hula hoop crisps, a smattering of cucumber and carrots, but basically it was bread and meat, sandwiches and baps!

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I had deliberately decided on this birthday to make the cake simple. How easy would it be to create a replica of an archery board? Oh simple is not the word. One round cake with 4 different rounds of icing, oh the joy would not be lost on me. No swearing in the kitchen and no hours spent icing some masterpiece. Oops – that plan went out the window when I stupidly double checked the cake choice with said ‘blue’ boy. Huge mistake, massive mistake, monumental mistake. In no time at all he had grabbed my ipad and was scrolling through the ‘Robin Hood’ – ‘Wild wood’ cake creations liberally and callously out for all to see on pininterest and google images. I was clearly in for the high jump! In no time he had selected the cake of his desire and I was left speechless as to how to reincarnate it. After the initial panic subsided I realised I could just about pull it off. The sponge tree trunk I made with 3 x 10 inch sponge cake rounds. I used the Konditer and Cook recipe for chocolate curly wurly cake, as this is deemed in our family to be the best chocolate cake recipe of all time. I sandwiched the trunk together with butter icing and then iced the top, I then covered the whole trunk with fondant icing to create the spreading parts of the trunk and bark. A wonderful fluted piping bag saved my bacon when it came to icing on the bark and a few leaf cutters pulled off the woodland effect. Now clearly the size of everything is slightly out, but you know what, it had the desired effect and the ‘blue’ one adored it. Curiously it was not that difficult to make and just goes to show you don’t know until you try, something I commonly tell my children yet rarely implement myself!

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Spooky meringue ghosts

1172 I don’t really buy into the Halloween shananigans, at least not in a big way. As a child I have no recollection of ‘trick or treating’ and frankly I’ve got somewhat confused as to what Halloween is all about. That said there is a ‘foodie’ side of this event that I find completely irresistible. People are so creative, you only have to tap in a few key search words and you’re bombarded with an array of wonderful ideas to add to the ‘treat’ box. These are my favorite. So easy to make and totally comical.

Spooky Halloween Meringues

2 egg whites

125 gms of white caster sugar

1/2 tablespoons of butternut icing

There are 2 key rules when making meringues- the cleanliness of the mixing bowl – it is so important that this is anything but plastic, copper is ideal but unlikely, aluminium and glass are perfect, and secondly that you cook at a very low temperature – I suggest 110 or ideally the bottom left oven of an aga – the point being to dry the meringues out and extract the moisture – !

Turn the oven on to 110c.

1. Put the egg whites into the extremely clean metal bowl of an electric mixer, something like a kenwood or kitchen aid, or you could use handbeaters, and beat on full power until quadrupled  (and more) in size and volume. When you pull the beaters out the peaks of the beaten egg whites should be firm not droopy! This can take 5 minutes or more. If there is any yolk in the egg whites they will not beat up – it has to be 100% egg white!

2.  Put the beaters back in and slowly pour in the sugar in 2 stages,  keep the beating going at full pelt and after a minute or 2 the meringue will take on a very glossy sheen. Leave the beaters on beating furiously while you prepare the tins. Line a couple of baking tins with baking paper and with a teaspoon or alternatively a piping bag drop / pipe dollops of the mix on to the paper. Place in the oven and leave to dry out for at least 1 hour. I literally do an over sized teaspoon for the ‘little people’ – which is perfect toddler size for pudding. The meringues are ready when they lift easily from the baking paper.

3. Ice on the eyes once the meringues have cooled completely.

This recipe can be doubled, tripled to make more.

The quantity above is designed for using up left over egg whites – it makes about 15 ‘toddler’ size meringues – or meringue kisses as I call them, or 4 good-sized adult meringues with some extra small ones as well.


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Cavelero Nero Love

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There’s something very exciting about the change of seasons in England. Autumn is about to ebb into winter and judging by the crisp chilly temperatures of the last few days, maybe there’s even a hint of snow in the air? This time of year naturally brings about a change of what is on the table, instinctively we crave rich, nourishing, comforting and warm food; game, succulent casseroles, slow cooked meats, roasted vegetables and soups. The list goes on and is a direct reflection of what is appropriate given the season, how we feel, what we lust after and what is available. Salad and cold food just doesn’t feature, it feels kind of wrong and rude, who wants salad when it’s 2 degrees outside and the ‘little people’ are breaking ice?

That said, I’ve been desperately trying to use up my ‘Shetland Black’ potatoes that are this crazy purple color. Beyond the novelty factor, they are a bit of a challenge and really their only destination is in a salad with salsa verde or something of that ilk. I’ve tried mashing them to see if the ‘little people’ would buy that stupendous purple hue, alas, no, they were not impressed. Just goes to show how color can dictate our palate even if the taste is identical. The ‘blue one’ who is a hard and fast mashed potato fan could not be convinced. Aside from the challenge of using up the ‘Shetland Blacks’, I have fallen in love again with a few seasonal wonders. Drum roll,  the ‘cauliflower’! Roasted is my favorite, but I’m pretty partial to puree, it’s certainly one of my top ingredients as I write. Squash, butternut and pumpkin are all popular as well, yet it’s the green stuff that is really top of the pops round here. Cavelero nero and kale are my absolute big loves. Firstly let’s talk about the color – oh boy is it intense? Cavelero nero can almost be purple, so dark is the green, isn’t it odd how Farrow and Ball have not named a color after it, though I guess cabbage named paint is slightly unappealing? Forgetting the color this veg has a history, allegedly it was grown in 600 BC by those canny Italians, thankfully for us, it’s now grown in Lincolnshire and if that’s not enough, it’s packed full of good things; vitamins K, A and C, Lutein, fibre, calcium and is a significant source of the B vitamins to name but a few! This is good stuff.

The salad today is raw, roasted and ridiculously good. It’s a real seasonal health booster but is not going to satisfy those with an ‘ I want comfort food’ craving, so pick your moment to eat it. I like it for lunch by itself, though it would work well with partridge or pheasant, guinea fowl and chicken. This is a vegetable salad and can be tarted up or down with the option of crispy pancetta and nuts. The cavelero nero is my nod to the ‘to the food trends of today’, raw, unadulterated, super healthy; the roasted cauliflower is nutty, intense and creamy, quite the best use of cauliflower ever; the avocado sublime and familiar, and the dill-yogurt dressing just marries everything together. It’s easy to make, different, tasty and healthy.

Roasted Cauliflower, cavelero nero and avocado salad with yogurt and dill dressing

1 cauliflower – cut into florets

1 head of cavelero nero – stripped from the stem, washed and finely cut

1 ripe avocado  – peeled and sliced finely – 1/2 lime juiced and drizzled over the top

2 handfuls of picked fresh dill

Olive oil/ salt and pepper

Yogurt dressing

3 tablespoons of good olive oil

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of natural yogurt

1 teaspoon of maple syrup

salt and black pepper

  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets and roast in the oven with good slug of olive oil, a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 180 for 30 minutes. Turn occasionally and remove once it has a little color and is cooked all the way through.
  2. Peel the avocado and cut into slithers. Juice the lime and smother over the avocado.
  3. Pick off 2 handfuls of dill fronds.
  4. Mix the finely cut cavelero nero, roasted cauliflower, avocado and dill. Dress with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.
  5. Whisk the olive oil very slowly into the yogurt, add the lemon juice and maple syrup, salt and pepper. It should emulsify and look like a loose mayonaise, add more water to loosen it if it is too thick. Adjust the seasoning, maybe a little more lemon, salt and pepper and spoon gently over the salad before serving.

Optional extras crispy pancetta and roasted hazelnuts.

This salad can be served when the cauliflower is still warm or when it is completely cold. if you want to tart it up, it works really well with some crispy pancetta and roasted hazelnuts.

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Blackberry Ice Cream


I can just get away with writing this post, the sun is out, autumn is here, and the blackberries are still on the brambles – just. Foraging for food has recently become pretty trendy but I remember blackberry picking from years ago. The event itself always seemed to herald the end of summer and natures consolation prize were these purple gems. There’s something very satisfactory about harvesting ‘free’ food and the ‘little people’ have certainly caught onto the idea. So blackberry picking we have been doing and anything that makes it home, usually a rather measly amount, has been turned into ice cream before those pudgy little fingers dive in again! I adore ice cream and with my new fancy ‘ice cream maker’ we have been experimenting in a major way. So far I have made all sorts, and aside from the blackberry, the most memorable being, the naughtiest, most intense chocolate I have ever had the pleasure to eat – thanks to the wonderful ‘Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream’ recipe book. Chocolate I can talk about any time, but blackberry definitely has a season so here is the recipe for any die-hard blackberry foraging ice cream fans!


Blackberry Ice Cream


1 cup double cream

1 cup whole organic milk

½ cup of sour cream

1/4cup sugar

3 egg yolks – whisked together

250gms of blackberry puree


1.Heat the cream and milk and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a large sauce pan. Just when it is coming up to the boil take it straight off.

2.Whisk the remaining sugar and egg yolks together and very slowly add in the hot cream and milk mix, whisking all the time.

3.Put the custard back on to the heat and stir until the custard thickens. Watch it like a hawk as you don’t want scrambled eggs! Remove the custard when it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Leave to cool.

4.Meanwhile make the blackberry puree by blending the fruit and passing through a sieve. Sorry, no fast way around this!

5.When the custard has cooled add the sour cream and blackberry puree and stir well together. Leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

6.Now pour into your ice cream machine and churn until it resembles a soft scoop. Remove and pop in the freezer or eat immediately!

I have just been given a new ‘Cuisineart Gelato and Ice Cream Professional Maker’ and it is amazing. No freezing bowls in the freezer, it has a built-in freezer and can make up to 1.5 litres of ice cream at any one time – that’s quite a lot of ice cream, I’d highly recommend it. This weekend I have ‘plum and early grey tea’ on the menu and another batch of chocolate, if we scrape together more blackberries, they’ll also get churned up!


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A super zingy, zesty and hot, shrimp salad

This is my all time favorite concoction of raw, crunchy vegetables, seriously fragrant herbs, delicate little shrimps, zesty lime and hot chilli. I have created so many variations of this salad that it almost feels wrong writing a recipe for it. It’s contents are usually dictated as to what’s in my fridge as opposed to anything else, so probably should be called ‘lottery in the larder’ salad? I suppose it is a ‘Thai’ salad though the dressing is distinctly Vietnamese, frankly I’m not sure either country would lay claim to it but for my naive Western palette it really hits the spot. I made it earlier this week for a sneaky mummy lunch and have been asked several times for the recipe, so here goes. Don’t feel too tied to it  – you can certainly go a little off piste (within reason)!

Hot Spicy Shrimp Salad

Serves 2

1/2 mango (ideally really quite hard) sliced into match sticks

2 organic carrots – julliened

6 mixed radishes – passed through a mandolin

1 large handful of fresh mint leaves

1 large handful of fresh coriander leaves

1/2 organic savoy cabbage shredded

6 runner beans – blanched and julienned ( you could use sugar snaps, fine beans I just happen to have a glut in my garden)

Red chilli – sliced very finely – quantity is up to you. I used one of my own home grown ones which was extremely feisty. They do vary in heat so do test before it goes in.

1 tablespoons of sesame seeds lightly toasted

100g  of brown peeled shrimps


1 tbsp of thai fish sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 lime – juice of  – (microplane the zest over the salad separately)

1/2 garlic clove grated on the microplane

1.5 tbsp of palm sugar or white sugar

Place all the vegetables, herbs, sesame seeds, chilli and shrimps in a large bowl, toss together lightly. Mix all the dressing ingredients together, add more lime if you need it or a little more sugar depending on your desired taste. Add the dressing, toss again. Place in a serving dish and consume fast!

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How do you start your day?


Imagine my surprise and amazement to see a few of my photos feature in this Saturdays Telegraph magazine. The article is about the new multivitamin and multibiotic powder that the wonderful ‘Zita West’ and ‘Mybaba’ have launched. The photos depict cunning ways to incorporate the vitamins into breakfast; hence a raspberry and almond milk smoothie with said powder on top and the infamous granola pot with again, a healthy scattering of said vitamins! This is for children only, and my goodness it’s a good idea when back to school invariably means back to classrooms with one to many germs and other nasties lurking. Unsurprisingly, the ‘pink one’ thought the magic powder ‘quite yummy’ and happily lapped it up, the ‘blue one’ was more reserved and needed it disguised. The powder itself tastes good but it does have that distinctive ‘vitamin’ smell that just needs a little cunning to mask.

Breakfast has been quite a feature in the last week. One way and another I managed to make what felt like an industrial quantity of pots destined to various clients. I like pots, they work well and have a real novelty factor to them. I mean I wouldn’t make them everyday but for special occasions they certainly hit the spot. I am also notorious for getting bored with breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not something I want to skip but boy it is something I want to vary. Much as I love granola, I don’t want it religiously. Soaked oats are catching on, I’ve always loved bircher muesli,  chia – treated well can be delicious, seasonal fruit compotes with yogurt – big thumbs up from me and the pink one,  and porridge made with almond milk, scattered liberally with blackberries is also up there. In the liquid format I am a keen fan of ‘juicing’, which sounds like it should be some kind of sport, on occasion it feels like it, as I ram another fistful of carrots through the machine, and also one particular smoothie, made of banana, oat, chia, dates and almond milk has recently won my heart. This all sounds overwhelmingly healthy, which I guess it is but roll on saturday morning and the bacon’s out, mushrooms and eggs in spades.

Chia Pots with Almond Milk, Mango and Passion Fruit

60g chia seeds

300ml almond milk (Rude Health makes a delicious milk)

A drop of vanilla essence

1 passion fruit

Half a mango

Soak the chia seeds in the almond milk and vanilla, overnight in the fridge. The chia will expand, if it’s very stiff in the morning, loosen with more almond milk. Spoon into jam jars. Top with chopped up mango and passion fruit.


Granola with Yogurt and Seasonal Fruit Compote 

Fruit Compote

Make the most of seasonal fruit with handpicked blackberries, damsons and plums. Gently put a combination of the fruit or just one of the fruit, in a pan with a slug of maple syrup. Bring up to simmer and cook gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and pass through a sieve to remove stones (if using damsons and plums)! Fruit compote can be frozen or kept in the fridge for up to 4 days.


Raspberry and Almond Milk Smoothie with ‘Mybaba’ multivitamin and multibiotic powder ( makes 1 childsize serving)

150ml of almond milk (or normal milk)

2 organic strawberries

5 organic raspberries

2 grams vitamin powder

Whizz the whole lot up and hey presto a delicious smoothie. If the fruit isn’t sweet enough add a little honey or maple syrup.

Zita West/ Mybaba – multivitamin and probiotic berry flavoured powder can be bought from and


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A summer of food, food, food…..

Ouch – it’s been a long old time since I have written anything here. Neglected – yes – that is for sure, ‘lardersaga’ has been rather dormant, my apologies. Somehow the summer whizzed by and already we are half way through September. Appetites have changed and comfort food is creeping onto the menu. Long gone are the hazy days of summer and autumn is most certainly here. Conkers, falling leaves, hearty soups and much more. My kitchen has created the whole spectrum from venison hotpots to autumn salads, all sorts works at this time of year it just depends what each day throws at us – rain, sun, wind! To get the ball rolling again, I am harking back to one of my favorite recipes that I cooked in a rather large quantity this summer; a classic, gluten-free (don’t look at the butter and sugar content !) ‘Lemon Polenta Cake’, from the time-honored bible of a recipe book, ‘The River Cafe’.

I don’t have a sweet tooth – at least not in the way the pink one does. However, confronted with a slice of ‘Lemon Polenta Cake’ I find it near impossible to resist its buttery crumb and lemony zing. It’s easy to make, versatile, can be used for tea or pudding and keeps for several days. Serve with lashings of creme fraiche, greek yogurt or mascarpone and a few seasonal berries, it is ‘YUMMY’, in the words of my daughter. Ideal for those of us who are intolerant of gluten but fancy an indulgent, slightly naughty cake!

The River Cafe’s Lemon Polenta Cake

250g butter

250g caster sugar

Grated zest of 2 organic lemons

250g ground almonds

1tsp vanilla extract

3 organic eggs, beaten

juice of 1 lemon

125g polenta

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 160c/ gas 5

Butter and line a 24cm loose bottomed cake tin.

Beat the butter, sugar, lemon zest and salt until white and fluffy.

Stir in the almonds and vanilla and now add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, beating well between each addition.

Fold in the polenta, lemon juice and baking powder.

Spoon the cake mix into the tin and bake for between 40 and 50 minutes till the sides of the cake have shrunk back and the top is golden.

Lemon sugar syrup

Juice of 1 lemon

75 gm caster sugar

Pop the juice and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently till the sugar dissolves completely.

Glaze the cake with a lemony / sugar syrup using a pastry brush.

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This shot was taken at the festival I cooked at in May. We made the cake for 220 people and it was sublime. We doubled the recipe and cooked the cakes in large rectangle baking tins. Every batch was very slightly different, some slightly more gooey, buttery, almost caramel like  – not one was the same but all were delicious.

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Festival food in France

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Every two years since 2003 I have travelled out to a otherworldly, fairytale Chateau in south-west France to cook and cater for a unique and exquisite music festival. I take a wonderful team of cooks and together we spend 5 days in the medieval kitchen, chopping, stirring, cooking, baking, peeling, rolling preparing food for the Queille Festival. It is the most extraordinary 5 days, exhilarating, inspirational, gruelling but most importantly fun. The quantities are huge, at times overwhelming. The atmosphere, magical and the teamwork phenomenal. So many people come to help us in the kitchen that this year I lost count, new faces came in each day; fabulous, gorgeous bright young things, seemingly invincible, riding the crest of innocent youth. We laughed a lot, one mans laugh I would love to bottle, it was hilarious in itself, contagious and uplifting . Music played, jokes shared while all the time we cooked our hearts out.

The first ‘festival food’ actually does not get served till the friday evening. So the initial few days are spent putting together substantial canapes for that evening and preparing for the vast numbers that come thereafter. This year we kept very much to an Italian style, the inspiration after all was  ‘Il Gattopardo’, a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and this would be the ‘theme’ for the last night in terms of dressing up, music and food. Menu ideas for friday night were not hard to come by, after all the Italians do ‘cicchetti’ extremely well, the Venetian cuisine is famous for it. On reflection, ‘canapes’ is maybe a little too glamorous a word, these were not delicate pretty works of art, what we created was much more hearty, good, wholesome peasant food! We served everything from arrancini (deep-fried risotto balls) to individual butternut squash risotto, homemade pizza, tortellini skewers, polenta with melted gorgonzola, spicy pork and fennel seed meatballs, masses of Italian inspired croutes with toppings such as white bean puree, fennel and spicy salami, to shots of roasted red pepper and tomato soup with basil oil. My Italian friends would have been proud!

As the weekend unravels so does the pressure on us. The numbers peak at around 220 and we loosely base our catering calculations on that figure. Saturday has always been a BBQ and this year we stuck again to the Italian theme adding a very popular Macaroni cheese which was virtually inhaled. Sunday lunch was Asian inspired; we ended up popping the marinated salmon on the BBQ (faulty, dodgy French hire ovens refused to work) with stunning results, paired with huge salads and the gratefully received, addition of sunshine, it was my favourite meal.

Sunday night is a 3 course sit down dinner in the big top (see instagram shot). This is the grande finale for us and really the most challenging and difficult of all the meals we cater for. As mentioned earlier the theme for this year was ‘The Leopard’, which has the most bewitching, seductive, mouth-watering passages of banqueting I think I have ever read about. The food becomes so visual you can almost taste it. Antonio Carluccio made a wopping 90 minute documentary about it, reincarnating the mystical dishes and portraying them in the context of the time. The novel is exquisite, and the food described unforgettably beautiful, but the food is part of an era that has long since vanished. Take for example the exquisite ‘Macaroni Pie’. This astounding creation is made up of a rich pastry encasing macaroni, ‘un-born hen’s eggs’ (I kid you not), truffles, porcini, stock, chicken livers and a number of other improbable ingredients. Decadent, rich, astonishing, yet not something I thought would necessarily pander to our generations tastes. After much deliberation we sacrificed the macaroni pie, the rum jelly, the cassata and zuppa di fave and opted for a more modern-day Sicilian menu. A starter of caponata with brushetta, mozzarella and rocket,  followed by Sicilian beef stew with capers, olives and rosemary, followed by Amaretti stuffed peaches. It was a shame, yet a decision we did not live to regret. ‘Macaroni Pie’ for 2oo really was pretty unfeasible.

The highlight for me was without question the Italian acrobats. Straight from the circus they performed death-defying stunts, it was all beautifully, ‘olde woldy’, no safety nets, no harness’, nothing, and much more exciting as a result. In terms of the food all of it was delicious, something about using produce that has not traveled hundreds of miles helps; the peaches were from Spain, strawberries from France. A few items stick in my mind, the ‘nectarine, fine bean and fennel salad’ was an epic masterpiece of summer lightness, all clean, crunchy and biting with flavour. The ‘lemon polenta cake’, which is a River Cafe recipe, was a super choice of pudding for 220 people on BBQ night, and just a recipe that will never be bettered, oh and it’s gluten free! And finally the ‘Amaretti stuffed peaches’ were regal naughtiness of the highest degree! So on that note I am going to leave you with the easiest and simplest of salads, the nectarine number! Perfect for summer, perfect for now and perfectly easy.

Nectarine, Fine Bean, Fennel Salad with Lime and Ginger Dressing (Serves 4 )

250 gms fine green beans topped and tailed and blanched very quickly – do not overcook

4 just ripe nectarines, segmented carefully into 8’s

1 large fennel bulb, julienned on a microplane

1 handful of fresh mint leaves lightly torn


1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

4 tablespoons ground nut oil

1 globe of preserved ginger or 1cm of freshly grated ginger

2 tbsp maple syrup 1 red chilli finely diced

1. To make the salad toss together the nectarines, fine beans, mint and fennel.

2. Make the dressing by shaking everything together really well in a jam jar. Dress the salad and serve immediately.

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