You know that it has been a long time since you last logged in to write your blog when you struggle to remember your password. A lot has changed since my last blog and things are about to change once more although what things will change to is yet be seen.
So what is my excuse this time? It is not that I haven’t been busy in the kitchen, believe me, I have, if I may say so myself, created one or two spectacular things, it’s just that I have been busy doing other things. Most notably, I have been busy working on a little project that you might have heard of called ‘The Big Feastival’ which was held last weekend on Clapham Common. Working on The Big Feastival has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life to date and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. Anyone who thinks that working in events is easy couldn’t be more wrong; it requires an incredible amount of dedication, organisation, mental strength, creativity and a certain amount of personal charm. But now The Big Feastival has finished and I have a few moments to sit down and tell you about just a few things that I have created over the last few months.
To my mind there have been two stand out culinary events in my kitchen during this time period: firstly the cupcakes that I made for “mini tour” and secondly, my Mummy’s birthday lunch (now that was a triumph). So to do things in proper order, let us start with “mini tour”.
James is a member of the elite cricket club that is “The Casuals” who every summer have both a tour and a mini tour. As they age and start to enter their twilight years, the make-up of the Casuals has changed somewhat, they are no longer young, free and single. In fact many of them are married and some of them have children so the Casuals have had to make some concessions. Whilst the WAGs are still excluded from tour, they are permitted on mini tour which this year (and perhaps every year but this was my debut outing) was in Norfolk. It was a glorious, if not slightly chilly, trip starting with a lunch at Cookies Crab Shop in Salthouse (go there for the food, not for the warm welcome and service), followed by a dip of the toes in the sea before heading off to our magnificent quarters at Holt Hall.
The best part of our evening meal at Holt Hall was the cheeseboard courtesy of Cannon & Cannon. Despite already being full I managed to dispatch an impressive amount of cheese from this wonderful selection that included a White Lady and a young goats cheese. I do not normally hold with goats cheese but this was incredibly mild and actually rather likeable.
But what was my part in all of this? Apart of course from my spectacular rounders performance and then brilliant table tennis display. Cake. That was my contribution to the whole thing. Everyone knows that where there is cricket, there must be cricket tea so before leaving London I whipped an impressive quantity of cupcakes and a batch of chocolate caramel shortbread for good measure. The chocolate caramel shortbread was as it always is (despite a slight sugar error) but the cakes were new recipes. Well, new to me. I deviated from my standard recipe and trialled Yotam Ottolenghi’s cupcake recipes and I have to say that he knows what he is doing. I made his chocolate cupcakes (although I chose to omit the ground almonds in favour of additional flour as I cannot abide them) and the hazelnut cakes which I topped off with a white chocolate icing. The hazelnut cakes are absolutely delicious and have a really beautiful fluffy texture; I cannot recommend them highly enough and the Casuals seemed to agree because despite my mega baking session there wasn’t a single crumb of anything left.
In addition to mini tour, May is also the month of my Mummy’s birthday and this year, I cooked a birthday lunch for my parents and grandparents in my wonderful new kitchen. Now because it was a lunch I decided to forego a starter but there was Cava on arrival as it was a birthday afterall. I cooked a braised shoulder of lamb with a Middle Eastern inspired stuffing of apricots, cranberries, oranges, dates, pistachios and parsley, with roasted butternut squash and seeds, and aubergines with buttermilk sauce and pomegranate.
The lamb was absolutely delicious and incredibly tender and it filled the entire house with a delicious smell. Dessert was a bitter chocolate tart with hazelnut ice cream. If I am completely honest, the ice cream needs work. It tastes great but I definitely need to work on the texture which wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be so I will have to get my thinking cap on and come up with something to improve it for next time.
It was a lovely lunch although I was very disappointed by the weather. I had prepared myself for a beautiful al fresco lunch with bunting, flowers in jam jars and coloured glasses with brightly coloured serviettes. Unfortunately it rained and we had to eat in the kitchen but despite the ‘look’ not being quite what I had planned, it was still a great meal.