Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Come Dine With Me Grand Finale

The long awaited round three of CDWM took part last month, and it was the turn of the Coopers to host. I think it is safe to say that Mrs Cooper wasn't quite as excited as Mr Cooper at the prospect of the mammoth cooking challenge, and it was Mr Cooper who led their stage of the challenge. I believe quite a few souffles were tried and tested before the last menu was revealed, and what a menu it was:



Cod and samphire dressed in a lemon, butter and caper sauce topped with prawns
Rack of lamb with fondant potatoes, spring vegetables and lamb jus
Chocolate soufflé and raspberry ripple ice cream
 
The gauntlet was firmly laid down with this spectacular menu and Mr C was in it to win it!
Now the Cooper's didn't just have a menu to stun, the location of their house also impresses. Nestled under the arches of the Forth Railway Bridge you have views across the Forth and also can sneak a peak of the new bridge being built. A wee photo opportunity whilst the canapes were served up (yes...canapes on top of that delightful menu).


If the canapes were the taster of things to come then I was looking even more forward to the menu. Risotto balls and haggis balls with accompanying dips. Yum!



Onto the starter...


Then the main (this had to be my favourite course of the evening)...



...and finally desert (yes they did rise!)

We finished off a delicious meal with cheese and homemade crackers (sadly not wheat-free but to be honest I was pretty stuffed anyway!).

As expected the Coopers were delightful hosts and coupled with the Storrars we had some cracking company for the evening. Food and good company, what more could you want for? Oh yes, the CDWM Champions title would be nice so onto the scoring!

Scores were tallied and big drum roll.....drrrrrrrrrr....we won. Won by only half a point! 



For me who is so passionate about food and puts so much love and care into every meal that I cook (not just in a competition) this was a very big deal. The standard of all three meals was exceptional and to come out on top was a lovely feeling. Apparently we scored an extra half a point by Mr C for our oven disaster, lucky he did! I was disappointed to only score a seven from one of our guests, but I guess it gives a taste of what it must be like for professional chefs when food critics analyze a menu and give feedback on it. Your palette may not actually suit everyone's taste. 

This was another wonderful culinary adventure to put alongside my Britain's Best Dish adventure and River Cottage adventure. What next?
 

Monday, 30 May 2016

We're Jamming...


In keeping with the rhubarb theme of the last post, rhubarb is very much the dominant fruit in the house at the moment. Having picked a load of the stalks to make jam, the rhubarb patch still looked untouched...so I set about making another batch...then another batch...

Five kilos of rhubarb later and there was still loads! So what to do with all the jam? Well I am busy raising funds for a fantastic local charity called LoveOliver so the jam is now for sale. After a scour of the internet to check the going price for a good quality jam I have settled for £4 a jar. A bargain!

At the moment I have rhubarb and ginger (a classic), rhubarb and rose (apparently hard to find) and my own "new kid on the block" recipe; rhubarb, strawberry and vanilla. 



I was a bit skeptical about rhubarb and rose but I have to say for now it's a clear winner. Subtle with a hint of rose I've enjoyed it in porridge and on homemade pancakes.

So if you'd like to sponsor me in return for a jar of jam I am only too happy to oblige. The first event is on the 11th June; my first attempt at a triathlon (eek). I will also be cycling 75 miles of the Fife Coastal path from the Forth road bridge to Tay bridge in July (double-eek). 

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/nicolamoriarty
 

 
 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Rich Rhubarb

If you are ever thinking about growing your own fruit and veg and are worried about it, then rhubarb is the fruit for you. It must be one of the easiest and hardiest of plants. No tending, no watering, pretty much neglected and yet year after it year it thrives and produces a massive yield of fruit.

That is, of course if you like rhubarb (and I do). I have childhood memories of a wee paper poke of sugar and a stick of rhubarb to dip in, not sure I would do that with my own kids (or if they would appreciate quite as much as I did as a kid!).

Anyway what to do with the first pick of the rhubarb? A nice jam or a yummy crumble? Or something new? I have a great recipe for banana loaf so thought with a wee bit of tweaking I would try and conjure up a recipe for a rhubarb and custard loaf (cause rhubarb and custard, in my opinion, are a match made in heaven).

Step 1 - pick the rhubarb:



Step 2 - prepare the rhubarb

Now I know it's traditional to stew the rhubarb on the stove, but I find that method gives you a bit of a brown mush. I prefer to cut the rhubarb into bite size chunks, layer it in a roasting dish, sprinkle with brown sugar and roast in the oven for about 25min or until it is soft (but not mushy). This gives a lovely texture and keeps some of the lovely colour.



Step 3 - Conjure up the recipe, and here it is...


Rhubarb and Custard Loaf

Wheat Free Yes Gluten Free Yes
Makes one large loaf

Ingredients 
170g butter, softened
170g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
170g GF SR Flour, sifted (I like Doves)
1 small pot vanilla custard
250g roasted rhubarb (see above)


Method 

1. Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract
2. Gradually add the eggs
3. Fold in the flour
4. Add a layer of mixture to a greased loaf tin. Dot some of the rhubarb on and add small spoonfulls of custard. Add more mixture and repeat.



5. On the top add more rhubarb and custard.



6. Bake in the oven at 160 degrees C for around 45min or until cooked (check with a skewer in the middle)
7. Put on a cooling tray to cool
8. Enjoy either cold or warm with more custard!



Friday, 6 May 2016

CDWM Hosting Highlights

Round 2 of CDWM and after a few months planning in the bag; our turn to host.

The menu...

Perfecting a menu for probably our most critical ever guests took meticulous planning and preparation. With much devouring of my humongous cookbook collection, scouring my favourite cookery website BBC Good Food and adding my own ideas and inventions meant I was quite happy with the menu...until I tried out the main course the weekend before the big date and found I wasn't quite so happy...in fact I didn't like it at all! Back to the drawing board for that.

Tada! The final menu revealed...

video

Shopping

We are blessed with some amazing local shops on our doorstep, and this week would be no different from any other week (except this time I took photos along the way). First stop the butchers!


Then Dougie the fishmonger in nearby Inverkeithing...

      

Then a dash up the town to get the wine and local Bruary beers...




...and finally I had to brave the supermarket for cream, no photos required (it was a whopping 2 litres!).













The preparations...

Now the fun begins. First stop, desert. The hazelnut brownie part is easy to make, coulis is pretty straightforward, ice-cream you bung in the ice-cream maker but the chocolate melting dome, well that's a whole new ball game! I had practised these with milk-chocolate and had no idea that dark chocolate is a nightmare to temper properly. Armed with my chocolate thermometer that Santa brought me I thought it would be a dawdle. Dawdle it wasn't! Using my technique that I conjured up whilst a contestant on Britain's Best Dish (yes I do claim to be the first person to using water balloons to make domes!) I followed the instructions, had the balloons good to go, then runny chocolate wasn't sticking to the balloons. About two hours later (and very little patience left) I had six shiny domes prepared.

Onto the preparation for the starter and this was easy as it's a tasty recipe on my regular repertoire, and one we had on Christmas day. The pastry was made with spelt flour as it makes a lovely pastry (one for CDWM and one for lunch on Sunday).

    
Looking rather tired at this point as it was getting late! Time for bed and finish prep on the big day.

Setting the scene...


The meal...

Starter was a great hit...


  


...main was a near disaster as the oven decided to pack in (next door neighbor to the rescue) but all was good and the beef was cooked to perfection (phew!).

    


Plating the desert was exciting (bit of a Masterchef moment)
  
  

The grand finale took place as everyone poured over the hot chocolate sauce or hot toffee sauce (or both) and watched as the chocolate dome melted to reveal the brownie and ice-cream.

All that was left was to serve up fresh coffee and homemade chocolates then over to Mr CDWM to crack open his whisky collection. 


This is always a good sign at a dinner party...


 Chuffed at the meal, scoring done and in sealed envelopes, next stop round three at the Coopers...

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Come Dine With Me Comeback


What better way to make a comeback on this blog than with a CMWM special! Not the televised version (been there done the whole TV cookery show thing  with Britain's Best Dish), but with a couples version of our own...three couples, three houses, three meals to enjoy.

The first meal of the competition took place in Linlithgow, courtesy of the Storrars. Now I've seen plenty photos on Facebook of their culinary creations, so knew they would be going all out to impress...and impress they did. Let me take you through the evening...

Meet and Greet 

The evening commenced at 8pm with some drinks in the lounge. We had two options; raspberry or rhubarb and ginger. As you can see, the company was very quiet and reserved at this stage (not!)...



Now onto dinner...

The starter - baked figs stuffed with mozarella and wrapped in Parma ham. 

One word sums this up, YUM!

The posh interlude - sorbet

The ante was well and truly upped when we were served a citrus sorbet in between courses. This served as a lovely palate cleanser.

The main - Chinese spiced duck with greens and a plum sauce

By this time in the evening I was salivating with all the aromas coming from the kitchen. We were lucky that it was open-plan and we could see our duck being cooked. As you can see the chef was taking this part of the event very serious!



Once dished up it looked (and tasted) fab...

Desert - chocolate mousse

I class myself as a bit of a chocolate mousse connoisseur, and anyone who knew me around the time that I went on Britain's Best Dish will likely also be known as a chocolate mousse connoisseur, as chocolate mousse was made again, and again, and again until I had it perfected!

Mousse should be fluffy, light, perfectly mixed (and for me on the milky chocolate spectrum) and this one did not disappoint. It even had a little crumble of flake on the top.


Cheese, chocolate and chilli

Just when we thought the meal was complete, out came the cheeseboard and biscuits (with gluten free ones just for me). The cheese was a lovely selection and greed took over at this point. Totally not required, but enjoyed all the same! I even enjoyed a wee glass of port, something I've not really liked before now (but always tried to drink on its own, now I know why it's the perfect accompaniment to cheese).




Now if the meal had finished at that point, well massive thumbs up! However things were about to take a turn for the worse with the chilli-chocolate game. Chocolate I like, chilli...well the photo sums it up...


The entertainment

The hosts, however did manage to pull the evening back by their after dinner entertainment, the table converted into a pool table (I soooooooooo want one of these!).


The whisky stash was unleashed, although I stuck to the red wine. A drink too may for the host perhaps?



Great night, great company, great food.


The scoring

Scores were taken and put in a sealed envelope. The score? Well you will have to wait for blog three.

A huge thank you to the hosts Brian and Sarah, I've never eaten (so much cheese) or laughed so much in a long time. Next time will be at ours and from the cook's perspective...watch this space