Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A Grey and Lime Green Private Tea Party

Another busy week completed and I am so knackered but in a good way. I have been super busy these last two weeks that I have not taken advantage of Alexa's nap time which extended from 20 mins to almost two hours for the past 2 weeks! I know... I know it won't last but I have been so busy that I hardly have any time to be amazed let alone enjoy the possible 'me' time! The previous week to last I was preparing for Bath Food Revolution cooking demo which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way (I will do a blog on it soon) and then last week I was busy baking and cooking in preparation for one of my good friend's hen do. She held it privately atCatharines of course (Bath's best private afternoon tea, ahem ahem ;) ) I was cooking in pjs and at one stage, in 2 hours I managed to make 36 individual brown sugar meringues, 1 kg of poached rhubarb, 24 large and small pistachio and raspberry financiers, made the guest bedroom up, do all the washing up, made Alexa's lunch, got myself ready and put some slap on so that I won't look too much of a tramp!! So on a rainy afternoon like today and also the day that my daughter decided to nap for 3 1/2 hours, I sat on the sofa like a slob staring into space and enjoyed the sound of droplets of rain lashing on the window above and did absolutely sod all! I must say that it is truly blissful.

The pictures of the tea party were absolutely fabulous and since I sat on my arse this morning without posting them, it is only fair to share them now. Our friend Corinne loves the grey and lime green combo so Kat and I incorporated these colours to make the tea party all the more special for her.

Tea Party Menu

Kat's fabulous chocolate fudge cake with grey and lime green icing
Viennese whirls
Pistachio and raspberry financiers
Poached rhubarb and brown sugar mess
Devonshire scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam
Cat's signature king rib and prawns siu mai
Spanish Burford Brown scotch eggs
Mini poached salmon and asparagus tartlets & mushroom tartlets
Smoked mackerel sandwiches with beetroot bread
Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Creme caramel obsession

I have been very busy. May seemed to fly by with our private hen do and running around town to get to Alexa's classes. We started baby sensory and a week doesn't seem to be enough anymore. I used to dread not knowing what to do with a newborn baby without going to work, now I am busier than ever! We have been eating out of the freezer (all hail the freezer) and getting takeaways as I have also started to wean Alexa. That girl is an eating machine. I am really pleased that she seems to be very interested in food and I enjoy making her different concoctions. At one point she was eating carrots and prunes and I was impressed she finished it. We have moved on from that now. Today she had steamed salmon, peas and congee (rice porridge flavoured with stock and cooked until the rice breaks down). Alexa has a 2 course meal every lunch and dinner so you can imagine that's keeping me busy. Armed with a blender, fresh fruit and vegetables and an ice cube tray I spent the last two weeks creating frozen, balanced meals. I now have 3 separate groups of food which consist of the carbs, the veg and the fruit. Yes I have been busy! So hubby and I decided to go on a date last Friday for sushi and Iron Man 3 and I must say it didn't feel strange at all. In fact it felt really nice to know that our little girl was sleeping soundly and in safe hands of our very kind friend Nicola who offered to babysit.

But the weekend didn't stop there.  We decided to cook a 3 course meal for our friend Corinne's birthday. She has given me some lovely cookbooks which I promised to cook from. I also thought that given my current creme caramel obsession, I could use this opportunity to perfect it. Ever since I tasted the creme caramel in Cote, I am hooked. I am now obsessed in making the perfect one. I have tried making it with just milk and half milk, half cream. They are just not quite perfect yet. I am embarking on making them with condensed milk next and less cream. To be continued...

So on the weekend we went a bit wild on the food side of things after 2 weeks of eating out of the freezer starting with breakfast at Bill's. I had a bubble and squeak with ham and eggs with hollandaise sauce and Andrew had eggs benedict. Thoroughly recommended by the way. Later that afternoon not long after breakfast, we had the following washed down with chilled Prosecco.

Sweet potato gnocchi with homegrown sage and brown butter

Roast local pork, crackling, stir fry pak choi, spinach and spring onions, roasted root vegetable mash with garlic and chillies emulsion

Nearly perfect creme caramel with pouring cream

Alexa trying my creme caramel

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Afternoon Tea fit for a Queen!.....and our Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free guests.....

On Saturday afternoon, the house was primped, primed and ready, tables laid, tea pots and decadent tea cups arranged as atCatharines opened its doors to a lovely, lovely group of ladies for a private Hen Party coupled with a brilliant craft session run by the fantastic Rebecca who runs Annanook.

It wasn’t the first Hen Party to grace our doorstep, and it certainly won’t be the last! It was, however, the first time we had been faced with Vegan and Gluten Free guests (Vegetarians are old news by now!) Cat has said before that there are two musts’ for an Afternoon Tea Party... Scones and Finger Sandwiches, so, after a mild panic involving questions along the lines of ......“Scones and clotted cream...How do we make that Vegan?”, and “If you’re Gluten Free you can’t have ‘normal’ sandwiches can you?”....  The real creativity started putting a menu together that would cater to all; Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free and ‘they’re pretty much fine with everything’  

Anything non-cake-ie we knew we could provide for all tastes and requirements. It was the fail safe sponges, scones and cakes that were out the window, so it was with a little trepidation we delved into the world of Vegan and Gluten Free Baking (We knew Mary Berry wasn’t going to be able to help us out this time!)

It was with much interest that we found some really fantastic websites with great, interesting recipe ideas, and it was with some surprise that with a little tweaking we found that the recipes not only looked great, but tasted delicious! So with our research done we put together what we thought (and still think) is a pretty pukker menu...

Our ‘out of the box’ menu with more than something for everyone
Vietnamese Spring Rolls  - Some Tofu and some Chicken
Cucumber, Smoked Mackerel Pate and Humous and Roasted Pepper Sandwiches 
Red Onion and Goats Cheese Tartlets
Salmon and Leek Tartlets
Vegan Lemon Drizzle Cake 
Flourless Chocolate Cake   
Scones, Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam
Vegan Chocolate Fountain with Fruit Dipping Skewers  
Sago Pudding  with Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk 
A Selection of Tea and Coffee

In addition to the tea party itself, these lovely ladies wanted to do something a little bit creative, so we had roped in Rebecca to provide a little bit of creative know how, and that she did!
Sitting in the glorious Bath sunshine on Saturday afternoon Rebecca imparted her wisdom, teaching the party how to make amazing fabric flowers..... I think we were pretty grateful that they had been allowed to eat before the flower making began as there wasn't much that could tear them away after they knew what they were doing!

It turns out, (as much to my surprise as anyone’s) catering to a vegan guest, or two in this instance and trying to create Afternoon Tea options without using wheat is not nearly as daunting as one might expect, you have to think outside the box a little bit and you have to do a little research, but other than that it’s an absolute delight when you get an email announcing that the Vegan Lemon Cake you had been so worried about was...and i quote... “The nicest vegan cake I’ve ever had!”  and “I’m planning on attempting the Sago Pudding myself soon, it was great (and delicious!)” You know, really, there was no need to worry!

Ok, so not everything on the menu was suitable for all of the guests to eat, but there was certainly more than enough to go around... If anyone needs to attempt something similar here is what you can serve to each dietary group:

Gluten Free:

·         Vietnamese Spring Rolls  - (Some Tofu and some Chicken), Cucumber, Smoked Mackerel Pate, Humous and Roasted Pepper Sandwiches (All can be made with Gluten Free Bread), Flourless Chocolate Cake, Vegan Chocolate Fountain with Fruit Dipping Skewers, Coconut and Sago Pudding  with Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk  


·         Vietnamese Tofu Spring Rolls, Cucumber sandwiches, Humous & Roasted Pepper Sandwiches (With Vegan butter substitute),  Vegan Lemon Drizzle Cake, Vegan Chocolate Fountain with Fruit Dipping Skewers, Sago Pudding  with Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk  


·         Vietnamese Tofu Spring Rolls, Cucumber sandwiches, Humous and Roasted Pepper Sandwiches , Red Onion and Goats Cheese tartlets, Scones, Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Vegan Lemon Drizzle Cake, Vegan Chocolate Fountain with Fruit Dipping Skewers, Sago Pudding  with Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk  

Everything would be suitable for non vegetarian, vegan and gluten free guests:

·         Vietnamese Spring Rolls  with Tofu and  Chicken, Cucumber, Smoked Mackerel Pate and Humus and Roasted Pepper Sandwiches, Red Onion and Goats Cheese  and Salmon and Leek Tartlets, Vegan Lemon Drizzle Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Scones, Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam, Vegan Chocolate Fountain with Fruit Dipping Skewers, Sago Pudding  with Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk
Thank you ladies it was an absolute pleasure!

xx Cat & Kat