Thursday, 28 November 2013

Retro dinner party by a guest writer Sam Butterworth


Today I have a pleasure of introducing a guest writer on my blog. Sam Butterworth is very keen to tell you some interesting things about a retro dinner party. I hope you will like his work as much as I do - I have always been a huge fan of retro style and dining, so there it is. Enjoy it! 

Aniseed balls - retro sweets

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Turn Back the Years with a Retro Dinner Party

Staying in is the new going out, or at least that’s what people who can’t stand banging clubs and bars say. And there is definitely something appealing about entertaining at home rather than heading out into town. Often it’s cheaper to have a party at home and you can also chat easily to all your friends and not have to shout over music that you don’t like that much anyway.

So staying in rocks, and having a dinner party is a great way to treat friends and family while having a fun social gathering. But how do you make your dinner party stand out from the rest? One idea that you are free to pinch is to throw a retro soiree. How, you ask? Read on…
 
Aperitifs

Every good dinner party begins with an aperitif of some sort. Gin and tonic is a classic choice but for something less timeless and more retro perhaps a mint julep would be suitable. Packed with fresh mint and bourbon this beverage will kick-start your evening.

Starters
 
After sipping at a cocktail your guests are probably starting to get peckish, so it’s time to serve up a nostalgic entrée. A classic from the 1970s is the prawn cocktail; a mixture of prawns, salad and Marie Rose sauce, dusted with cayenne pepper.

Main course

For a hearty and delicious main course you should consider cooking a beef wellington. This has been a staple of gourmet restaurants for decades and despite it being a retro option it still tastes great. The secret is to use fresh porcini mushrooms in the pastry and it has to be fillet of beef to really blow your dinner guests away.

Dessert

A fantastic idea to really turn back time with your dessert is to decorate it with retro sweets. For instance, if you want to make a batch of old fashioned butterfly buns you could scatter them with popping candy to remind your adult guests of their youth and to make them giggle a bit, or maybe some Parma Violet candy sweets for a perfumed flavour. An alternative retro pudding is the classic trifle, which again could be enhanced with the addition of some old fashioned sweeties.

Coffee and digestifs

No dinner party is complete without some good coffee and perhaps some post-prandial beverages. To be honest coffee hasn’t changed all that much over the years but there are some old school alcoholic drinks you can serve along with your hot drinks. Calvados is a classic for gents and for the ladies perhaps a Tia Maria or glass of Cointreau would help their dinner go down.


Sam Butterworth

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How to make sauerkraut at home?

cabbage after one week of fermenting - crunchy yet with distinctive sauerkraut flavour already, more photos to follow soon


Homemade sauerkraut is a world apart from the stuff that comes from the shop in jars or plastic bags. The real thing that you can buy in Poland (I am sure Czech, Slovakia, Russian, Germany and more too) from a butt (barrel?) tastes so much better than the jar stuff I buy in UK. So I decided (finally!) to make my own following my Mum's and Granny's advice. My partner and I both agreed that this was one of the best ones we ever ate. Come on winter! We no longer should have an immune problems, good bye colds (hopefully!), but to be honest for me what is the best is the flavour of sauerkraut - you cannot beat it. Have you tried and liked kimchi? Then you should try sauerkraut. 

What is sauerkraut? 

Directly translated it is indeed "sour cabbage". To be more precise finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria therefore very good for your health. It has a long shelf-life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage.

Autumn cabbage is the best for making sauerkraut


Why it is good for you?

It is extremely high in vitamins C, B, and K; the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut even more nutritious than the original cabbage. It is also low in calories and high in calcium and magnesium, and it is a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese.

If unpasteurized and uncooked, sauerkraut also contains live lactobacilli and beneficial microbes and is rich in enzymes. The fiber and supply of probiotics improve digestion and promote the growth of healthy bowel flora, protecting against many diseases of the digestive tract.

Sauerkraut is high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both associated with preserving ocular health.


Can you prepare sauerkraut at home? 

YES! 

This is what you need:

- white cabbage, preferably during Autumn time (this is what Gran told me - earlier cabbages don't taste as good)
- good quality natural salt (with no additives such as anti-caking agents) - about 10-20 grams for every kilogram of fresh cabbage
- carrots, firm sour apples, caraway (seeds or ground) - OPTIONAL, for extra flavour 
- possibly a stoneware but glass jar will be good too for small batches (my Great grandmother use to make it in a wooden butt, but she had one and a special space for it, also a much bigger family to feed than we nowadays)
- mandoline or a food processor with shredding attachment (unless you want to cut it with a knife)



How?

Work in fairly clean environment - you want good bacteria to do their job, so clean the worktops and the container you will be making sauerkraut in. 

First remove outer leaves from the cabbage and discard any wilted, limp outer leaves. Cut in half and in quarters then trim out the core. Some people use it, but it has to be very finely shredded - so it is up to you, you may as well leave it just to make sure it is shredded finely than the leaves.

Using a mandoline or a food processor shred the cabbage into fine ribbons. At this stage you can place them in a container that will be used for fermenting or in something else for a time being (and mixing with salt). I place it in a large clean plastic bowl.

Sprinkle the salt over the top of the shredded cabbage. If you making a lot of it (like me - 8kg of cabbage in one lot) it would be beneficial to sprinkle salt over few layers of cabbage as you shred it. 

Next begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands, wooden rolling pin or... clean feet. Yes, this is fun! :) The main purpose for this is to get some juices out of the cabbage. Gradually, the cabbage will become watery and limp. It is time to add whatever you want to add for extra flavour, or you can leave it as it is. 

shredded cabbage

For 8kg of cabbage I used 2 large carrots (peeled and grated), 3 firm sour apples and about 3 tsp of ground caraway. I placed some carrots in between layers of cabbage when I was transporting it to a stoneware container. Also I sprinkled few layers with ground caraway and just before the last layer I added apples and covered them with last layer of cabbage. 

You have to make sure all the juices go to the container. You must press the cabbage down again, quite firmly, then cover with clean cloth and place something heavy on the top to weight it down - I used plate with big jar of water. Cabbage must be weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid.  If after 24 hours in room temperature, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add just enough to submerge the cabbage.

bashing the cabbage with a rolling pin

Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 14 days. Time will depend on the quantity you are making and the temperature. At the beginning keep it at the room temperature, but then after about 1-3 days place in a cool place, preferably about 12-15 C. As it's fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight, check it daily and press it down if the cabbage appears above the liquid. After about 1-3 days (again depending on the quantity) get a wooden spoon and using it's bottom pierce the cabbage in few places to remove the natural gas that may occur during the fermentation and sometimes can make the cabbage taste a bit bitter.

Small batch of sauerkraut will ferment more quickly than larger one. Start tasting it after 3 days — when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, place cabbage in the jars, screw on the cap, and refrigerate (I keep in the cool garage during Autumn/Winter). You can also allow the sauerkraut to continue fermenting for 10 days or longer. There are no hard rules for when the sauerkraut is ready— go by how it looks and tastes.

Gas, bubbles, noises are all happy signs of fermentation so do not worry. :) And please note the released juices are extremely tasty, refreshing and healthy.

Refrigerated in jars sauerkraut should keep for 2-3 months. 


chopped cabbage in stoneware dish


I hope you have enjoyed my first English post in months and I would love to hear from you if you make your own sauerkraut. 

our traditional stoneware dish we brought from Poland

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A massive thanks!


I participated in Aysgarth Fete yesterday and for the first time in my life I had a chance to sell my cakes, focaccias and preserves to the public. Funds collected during the fete are going towards Aysgarth Village Institute so it was a double pleasure for me - helping to raise the money and seeing people buying my cakes and preserves and actually some coming back for more! What a joy!

A massive thank you to all that bought my gluten free lemon & almond tart, dark chocolate brownie, onion, olives & oregano focaccia, onion, sundried tomatoes & thyme focaccia or preserves. Also another massive thanks to everyone who participated in the fete and made me feel welcomed. For the first time I participated in such a venue and hopefully not the last time. 

THANK YOU!

♥♥♥

Village ladies and me in the middle of cake stand








 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Where to eat? The Bridge Tea Rooms, Bradfod on Avon


Last September on our way back from Cornwall we stayed two days in  Bradford on Avon and Bath. In Bradford we had the opportunity to eat fantastic lunch in a traditional tea room - a place that has been awarded many times and for me this is the best example of how tea room should be run like. 


The building itself is dating from 1502 and this makes this place quite specific - not too spacious, with low ceilings and exposed beams, you can also hear every single step from the first floor. Tables are situated on the ground and first floor, there is not too many of them (still enough to cater for 45 people!), so if you are desperate to eat during the high season then better book in advance. 





















 For me this is a quintessential English tea in good old style: delicate bone china, subtle classical music in the background, fresh flowers, antique furniture and also... a sculpture of Queen Victoria proudly exposed in the spotlight. An  interesting touch is also made by waitresses dresses in Victorian style outfits typical for the servants that old days. They also behave in very friendly way, like the customers were just a bunch of friends coming to a tea, still with a professional touch though. They are warm, friendly, very happy to help and advice and answer your questions.   

I was in many British tea rooms over the years but the selection of teas in this particular one was the most impressive. They have over 30 varieties and blends! And they know how to make a proper brew. They serve good quality leaf teas, with extra hot water on the side and a strainer. I was really spoiled with their selection but finally decided to go Jane Austen blend (she spend several years in Bath nearby) and my partner had very tasty and strong Assam.



For a lunch we both had one of the afternoon teas from the menu - these start at basic one (scones, clotted cream, preserves and tea) but also menu offers a great variety of different ones: including a savoury one or one with a glass of champagne.  We had the savoury one - scone with herbs (served warm), Cheddar, Stilton and Camembert, butter, celery sticks, apple, grapes and chutney. And a pot of tea of our choice (as above). It was our food heaven. It tasted great, the selection of cheese was spot on, so was the scone, slightly toasted the way I like. Although we were really full after having this savoury afternoon tea we had to finish it off with something sweet. 


 We shared a traditional cream tea. It is not stated that it is big enough for two, but it was big enough not only to sample, but to get a satisfying dessert for both of us. We had two big fluffy scones, two jams - strawberry and blackcurrant and my beloved clotted cream (traditionally made in Devon and Cornwall - Protected Designation of Origin). With this one we had a tea blend called  Empress of Pecking - a medium strength China tea with an aroma of orange blossom and citrus fruits. 


On the  menu apart from the traditional afternoon teas and very impressive cakes exposed in the glass chilled cabinets there are some savoury bits available too such as traditional sandwiches (egg & cress, bacon, lettuce & tomato), red onion & goat cheese tart, jacked potatoes or soup of the day. Until 11.30 am you can also eat traditional English breakfasts: Full Monty, eggs benedictine, or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon). The tea room is also available for private parties.


If you are a lover of tea, if you like old fashion touch and fancy an afternoon in a tranquil environment then this is a right place for you. If you are a tourist and want to see something quintessentially English then again - this is a right place for you. I will definitely go back there one day. 

The Bridge Tea Rooms 
24a Bridge Street 
Bradford on Avon
Wiltshire
BA15 1BY
tel. 01225 865537

Open
Monday - Friday  9.30 - 5.30
Saturday 9.30 - 6.00
Sunday 11.00 - 5.30

We had: savoury afternoon tea £9.75 each, sweet £6.65, all the prices can be found on their website. There is also children's menu available.   

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Where to eat? The Temple Cafe, Northton, Isle of Harris




My partner and I knew the shops and petrol stations are closed on Sundays on Outer Hebrides but me – enthusiastic (and naive as it turns out) foodie managed to convince him that apart from few bottles of mineral water stuck in our cool box (it was a hot day) we shouldn’t take anything else and some places will be serving lunches. Yeah right… 

We headed south from Seaforth, where we stayed (a beautiful spot!) and we passed one open bar in Tarbert however it was still too early to have a lunch. The further south we traveled on Harris the more we realised it is nothing but a desert when it comes to serving food. All cafes, pubs, galleries serving snacks were closed. My partner spotted a place with several car parked outside and we decided we are going to check it out. I was so hungry I would settle for a sandwich made with cotton wool like bread, margarine, coloured cheddar served with crisps (probably my worst nightmare sandwich idea ever!). Instead we actually had very tasty and fresh food for lunch in rather interesting place.



Interior is very cosy, big enough to accommodate and serve food to around 20 people. The building is made of stone and looks like an ancient temple indeed. One side is made of glass and the view is spectacular. The best that Harris can offer: hills, sea, lovely sand. And sheep grazing peacefully. An idyll. 

I was very happy to see an open kitchen too. It is tiny and three people make a crowd in it and I was delighted to see it has a coffee grinder, homemade bread and fresh vegetables. We had lovely lunch and were very happy to discover that they serve evening meals too, so we booked two spaces for Friday night. Booking is essential, because the chef (and owner - Gail) is only able to serve a limited number of covers, and this place is not very spacious too. On Friday night we have witnessed people being send back because they didn't book and the cafe was fully booked that night.



Menu is short, which I like - it means all food is freshly prepared in tiny kitchen (they have some kind of storage outside too, that gives you an idea how small the kitchen actually is) and if they run out of something it comes off the blackboard and chef has to prepare new lot. No frozen nonsense, no microwaved defrosted crap. In the evening they serve food from 6.30 pm and when we arrived just before 7 pm the scallops and chorizo came off the menu already! What a shame! The choice was still satisfying though. In general I think there are always (well at least at 6.30pm) three starters, three mains and few desserts including a cheeseboard to choose from. Oh, and you bring your own booze. The cafe is not licensed to serve alcohol, but they are more than happy to serve you a wine or beer glasses so you can enjoy whatever you brought with you. By the way - the glasses are mismatched. So are the plates. Love it. My kind of place.



For a lunch we had squash, sweet potato, pea and coconut soup served with homemade bread, followed by summer vegetable tart (with caramelised onion, roast peppers, courgettes). Both dishes were very tasty - soup was rich, well seasoned, with chunks of vegetables and the bread was fresh. Tart base was very crumbly, not soaked in egg and cream mixture (very popular for some reason?) and the vegetables were al dente. It was served with couscous,  salad, olives and chickpeas. For a dessert we decided to have a coffee (excellent, freshly ground and they have a soya milk, yay! Perfectly steamed and frothy) and my partner had a white chocolate and raspberry scone while I was really keen to have a carrot cake. Unfortunately it was not available yet still on a blackboard, so one of the girls (south European looking, so was her accent) asked me if I fancy chocolate cheesecake because she can make it for me. So 5 minutes later I had very simple, improvised cheesecake which was basically a stack of digestives, sweet cream cheese topped with melted chocolate. Top score for trying to make a customer happy. 




For a dinner we both started with a selection of charcuterie, olives and bread. It was served with a caramelised red onion. For a main my partner had a beef goulash and I had a veggie lasagne. I was surprised (I shouldn't really as this is quite common in UK to serve potatoes with pasta dishes - for me personally it doesn't work) to get a roast new potatoes with my lasagne, but these were happily consumed by my partner and I thoroughly enjoyed pasta dish served with raw vegetable salad and courgette & carrot ribbons. What a lovely raw salad it was! Fresh, crunchy, sweet, peppery - thousands of light-years away from a boring and most popular traditional Coleslaw. 


For a dessert I finally got to try their carrot cake. It was scrumptious. Quite light, not too sweet with slightly salty topping. Probably the best one I had in a long, long time. Not too big too, for me it is an advantage, but my partner had to order another sticky toffee pudding to be satisfied. With all meals, lunch or dinner time we had water - you can get mineral water, but it is worth trying Hebridean tap water.

This certainly isn't a place serving parmesan foam or snail porridge, but what you will find here is what I call- honest food. Tasty, freshly made by a woman who seems to be really excited about tasty food and good ingredients. Gail when she finishes the service comes out of the kitchen, talks to the guests, sometimes she pinches a salad dressing from one table to give it to another. I thought it was funny when she was playing with her Ipod and asked us if there is any type of music we would be offended by.

She is also very open to the various dietary requirements - vegan, gluten free, non dairy diet? No problem. The cafe also hosts private parties.

This is one of these places that I will not forget. Great spot, spectacular views, lovely atmosphere and simple, delicious food. What more would you wish for on a holiday? I recommend this place with all my heart.





We paid £30 for the lunch, and £42.50 for the evening meal and it worked like this: 2 meals £15 and 3 meals £18. Good value for money definitely.  

The Temple Cafe
Northton
HS3 3JA 
Obbe
Eilean Siar
United Kingdom 
tel. 07876 340416

Closed Mondays, Tuesday - Sunday 10:30am - 5:30 pm, evening meals 6.30-9.30pm but I have an impression it is only during the summer time, so better ring and ask!