Sunday, 17 May 2009

May 16th dinner

The menu written in my teen's beautiful French script

The menu written in my teen's beautiful French script

A perfect soufflé

A perfect soufflé

A banana leaf
A banana leaf

A banana leaf and chopping chillieswrapping fish in A banana leafmonkfish wrapped in banana leaves, with coconut/chilli/lemongrassA Jamie Oliver recipe: monkfish wrapped in banana leaves, with coconut/chilli/lemongrass. It worked well.

Giant passion fruit pavlovaGiant passion fruit pavlova, a Nigella recipe. 

ready meal

My teen's lunch yesterday. There is a saying 'a cobbler's child is always the worst shod'.

Marilyn, a former guest, came to do front of house. By day she is a registrar in the Windsor area. Her registry office has married Charles and Camilla, Elton John. Coincidentally one of my guests tonight, Dan at Bibendum wines, is marrying his fiancée in her registry office in June.
I was pleased with the food but took a huge risk making goats cheese soufflés. Not only have I never made them before, but I've actually never even eaten one. I followed Raymond Blanc's recipe from his book 'Recipes from Le Manoir aux quat'saisons'. In my practice session, they puffed up beautifully but I found them hard to extract from the ramekins for twice baking. I decided to only bake them once. But the mixture must have collapsed by the time I got them in the oven a couple of hours later, and they did not rise as much as I hoped. Still tasted good though.
I also had lots of problems baking the new potatoes in the Aga. Smallish potatoes normally take about 40 minutes in the roasting oven. These took an hour and a half! Fortunately I had already done some rice to go with the banana-wrapped monkfish.
I enjoy that my guests dress up, sometimes in vintage outfits, often in towering heels, for the dinners. Nice to be surrounded by glamour.
Please do be aware that menus are fixed. I cannot do last minute orders. If you are strictly veggie or vegan, or are coeliac or dairy intolerant, I will try to accommodate you but only if you let me know well in advance. I'm not cooking in a professional kitchen, I only have an Aga. Getting 29 covers out simultaneously is enough work.
I'm also becoming increasingly irked, perhaps unreasonably, by the amount of people who claim to be allergic or intolerant to this and that. I get tired of hearing (invariably skinny) women going on that wheat makes them feel "bloated". That unfamiliar feeling is probably explained by having a full stomach, in other words, a proper meal. I do have a friend, Irish, who is a proper coeliac, a condition that is common amongst the Irish. But I do wonder if some of this food 'sensitivity' is simply nouveau anorexia! My favourite guests eat all their dinner and ask for seconds, which, if I can oblige, I will.
I had one guy write to me "I'm a vegetarian, but I also do not eat garlic, onion, mushrooms, eggs".
I replied, rather cheekily: "Surprised you don't also have a nut allergy!" adding "...personally I believe in the healing power of garlic". 
Perhaps he was from one of the Indian religions that restrict these foods such as Hare Krisha/Ayuverdic/Jain or Buddhist. Many old world religions are suspicious of new world ingredients. Found these explanations on a food forum:
 "the reason in ayurveda that onions and garlic are to be avoided is because they can agitate or excite the body and make it difficult for meditation.

Yet, they are not completely restricted because it is understood that garlic and onions have extreme health benefits. So, the restriction is actually quite simple. When one is going to partake in a time of meditation, they should forgo these foods before the meditation, and can consume them after the meditation. then, they can fast from these foods until the next meditation. "
"Onions and garlic are considered 'tamasic' in Ayurveda - in the mode of Tamas, which is ignorance and darkness. This is particularly true of Vaishnava Hindus, who revere the avatars of Vishnu, Rama and Krishna. Tamasic foods are bad for yoga and meditation. "

Buddhist monks avoid five foods including Garlic, Onions, Chives, Leeks and the scallions, green onions, spring onions, shallots...

Some religions also restrict eating things which grow underground for, if you eat the root, you kill the plant.


  1. It's interesting what you say about onions etc.. and religion.

    When organising the food for my wedding a couple of years back I was surprised how many guests suddenly announced the had various "food intolerances" *rolleyes*

    I'm always in awe as to how you can cook so many covers in a home kitchen.

  2. I have to admit Jules, more than eye-rolling, in fact swearing worthy of a sea-faring man was going on in the kitchen last night!
    There is almost a kind of food neurosis nowadays...
    Yes 29 was alot. Now 20 doesn't seem like much, 12 is a piece of piss. I've learnt a great deal in a short period of time.
    Also clearing up went well today with the help of my mum. Done by 11 am!
    Last week, the washing up was done on Tuesday night!

  3. looks great ! will def come up when things settle a bit ... rblanc recipes are great ... i gave up poncing around with mousses once i made his simple chocolate mousse that beat anything i'd achieved with creme anglaise and creams ! love the comments re allergies - a true allergy is fairly rare ... 1-2% of the population

  4. Would be great to see you as a guest or a chef Matt.
    Interesting statistic!

  5. I promise I'll eat everything. So far, all the menus have been absolutely alluring.

  6. Love the discussion of spiritual and cultural reasons for avoiding onions, garlic, etc. If you eat the root you kill the plant - a bit like my fruit philosophy that the plant loves you eating its fruit because that helps it to procreate.

    As you know I am not a skinny thing, and I don't label myself wheat intolerant, however I do relate to the 'bloated' feeling from wheat. It seems to give me all sorts of swelling and gas in the abdomen. Perhaps it is because I eat less of it nowadays that I notice the effect (whereas before maybe I just always had a bloated tummy?). You know me, I always eat until full, so in my case this definitely isn't a disguise for starving myself!

    Are you sure discussing Israel in your kitchen is a good idea after what happened before the quiz that time..?


  7. Arrrgh! Food intolerances!

    I'm getting married in Italy next year with 150 italian guests with no dietry requirements other than "lots of it". In the 40 odd UK contingency I have wheat, dairy & nut intolerances, half are veggie, a couple are vegan and one animal rights activist which I am dredding when we roll out a whole porchetta piggie.

    All this in a remote mountain village who think vegetarians are people who only eat white meat.

  8. I'm not very tolerant of fussy eaters, if you don't eat certain food because you don't like it then I think the best attitude to adopt is to keep trying it until you do! For your little underground place, people can hardly expect you to cater for all their fussy whims but it is great that you do try!

    However, as for proper allergies, I do know a girl who is a celiac and man that is bad. Her wheat free bread only has to brush against some normal bread and she is sick for weeks - they thought she had cancer when she first went to the doctors because of such extreme reactions!

    That monk fish looks delcious by the way... xxx

  9. Curious Cat, best not adopt that approach if you have kids, as you'll give them a complex!

    I was a very fussy eater as a child (e.g. I remember gagging on my mum's 'almond roast' which contained tinned tomatoes - eurgh, I would probably love it now) but as I have got older, although I am vegan and fairly healthy eating, I can tolerate most foods, and those remaining ones that I'm not keen on I do try from time to time because I have experienced for myself that tastes change over time.

    I really believe kids don't like the same foods as adults because their tastes are different because they need different nutrients and as they get older they get better equiped to deal with certain foods that they couldn't before.

  10. I know what you mean about people and wheat. I have a mate who is a coeliac too and it really aint funny at all. When people say it makes them feel 'bloated' I am always a bit sceptical. Yeah, wheat makes me feel bloated too - that is because it is very filling.

  11. There is definitely a difference between full and bloated. Fullness can go so far as to feel like I'm going to burst, but that isn't feeling 'bloated'. Bloated feels like there's something wrong, like a huge gaseous swelling in the gut. Rice doesn't do it. Potatoes don't do it. Oats don't do it. Barley doesn't do it. Wheat does it.

    I don't consider myself wheat intolerant, I have just observed the effect in myself and therefore understand why people would want to avoid it because it is very unpleasant.

    Those who don't experience it I expect probably eat a lot of wheat - when I ate bread every day I never had a problem. However nowadays I am more likely to have rice cakes, oat cakes, or something with rice or quinoa, so when I do go back to wheat I notice it.

    If you're getting on OK with wheat then good for you, but a bit of sympathy for those who are more sensitive would be nice.

  12. The quick answer is clearly to eat more wheat! Problem solved!
    I don't mind the odd rice cake but it is like eating polystyrene isn't it?
    Do you think you have food issues Ms CE? Most women do.

  13. I certainly did when I was younger - I was an overweight child and I used to overeat massively.

    I now eat much more healthily, but I suppose I am very food-oriented. I do love good food.

    I think to be vegan one needs to be very enthusiastic about food or else one will become mal-nourished, and I'm certainly not that.

    It is difficult not to have issues with food in our society where we are so alienated from its source and real purpose. It becomes a pastime, a reward, a leisure pursuit, rather than simply fuel.

  14. Also, to say that the answer is to eat more wheat is a bit like saying that if coffee gives me the shakes then I need to drink more coffee, or if alcohol makes me feel sluggish I should drink more alchol. Sugar, dairy products, refined flour products, all make me feel rubbish, but only because I don't eat them very often.

    It's interesting to see what my body's natural reactions to things are when I'm not hooked (and I do think we get hooked an foods, look at the veggies who fancied 'just one bacon sandwich' and now they're eating steak every night...)

  15. Of course, but with a ring of truth - I have often thought myself that it would be a solution...

  16. Avoiding garlic/onions/mushroom/egg is an Indian religious thing. Some members of my family follow that diet strictly but they don't eat out except at Indian vegetarian restaurants that will cater for them. The diet suits Indian food better as the spices make the food tasty without the need for onion or garlic.

    BTW, the spice asafoetida/hing can be used to give pungency instead of onion and garlic. It's used in the 'vaghar'(frying the spices in oil) when making a curry. Hare Krishnas use it in Western as well as Indian dishes.


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