Being in the industry myself I've never really considered hiring a private chef to cook and serve dinner in my own home, but I think I might be hooked! La Belle Assiette offered me the chance to test a stress free dinner party pairing me up with local Suffolk chef Richard Johnson for his Validation Dinner. You see all chefs registered with the online booking platform have to be validated by 'The Jury' to make sure they are of the highest calibre. So my family helped me with the task and six of us sat down to a superb three course dinner last night. Our 'Chef Richard' arrived at 6pm smartly dressed in his whites; I was hoping that the neighbours would spot him because it makes you feel rather grand having a chef turn up to cook the dinner. My daughters wondered if this is what it was like being in the Kardashians because we didn't have to lift a finger, which meant we drank a whole lot more than usual as we made cocktails in the sitting room, while Richard prepared the dinner. We'd agreed a 7.45pm meal time and Richard was relaxed as he served the dinner at a good pace to suit us all. First he delivered a big basket of bread complete with his homemade rosemary, garlic and black peppercorn infused oil with balsamic to dip into. Followed by the starter of his own cured salmon gravadlax with golden beetroot, avocado and dill sauce vierge. So pretty on the plate and causing a few ooh's and aah's as Richard set down the starter in front of us all. A great beginning to the meal with the light, delicious, piquant flavours of the cubed salmon echoed by wonderful aromas of freshly chopped dill. Pork belly followed with dainty and beautifully buttery pomme duchesse, purple carrot, a wafer of crispy Serrano ham and Cognac jus. The pork was meltingly tender, crackling crunchy and all the plates empty when Richard came to clear them. The lemon tart for dessert was a deconstructed affair which included fabulous buttery Breton sable biscuits (Richard is classically French trained also working for many years in France) dollops of homemade lemon curd and raspberries of different textures. The sharp and lemony dessert delivered to the table in a waft of sensational, citrus aroma. Richard has his own coffee roasting company and was keen for us to sample his Mr Beans smooth, rich and robust blend so as a surprise finale he delivered coffee into the dining room and we rounded off the meal. For the first time when entertaining I didn't have to get up from the table, except to fetch more wine, so if there's a downside to this it's the amount of wine I drank because I didn't have to worry about burning the dinner. Richard did everything! What a charming chef he proved to be too, explaining the dishes as he served, cooking the meal and washing everything up afterwards. Not a trace left behind after we said our farewells. The conversation at dinner being 'let's book him again' 'shall we have a party'! There's a simple booking process to bag yourself a top quality chef like Richard, with the La Belle Assiette website offering a £39 Temptation menu, perfect for any occasion; a £59 Prestige menu, a bit more fancy for the gourmets amongst you or the full works Signature menu, £89+ for those wanting to bring Michelin quality into their dining rooms. So choose your location, date and type of menu and the available chefs and their menus will pop up. Make your booking (modifications and dietary requirements can be accommodated) and pay online, it's that easy. The Chef will get in touch, ask about the kitchen facilities and work with you to make sure the meal goes smoothly. You can cancel up to 7 days before your event and make modifications up to 24hrs before. Time slots run from 11am to 10pm with even a breakfast menu offered by a few of the Chefs. Brunch anyone?
- Chef Richard ready to cook!
- The table set by me although Richard would have done this for us
- Richard tells us how he has created the starter
- Salmon gravadlax, golden beetroot, avocado and dill sauce vierge
- enjoying the starter
- My very own Kardashians
- Richard plates the main course
- Main course arrives, The Jury sits.
- Pork belly. pomme duchesse, purple carrot, Serrano ham, cognac jus
- Dessert being assembled by Richard
- Great dinner, happy faces!
- Richard is also has a coffee roasting business called Mr Beans and made us a complimentary pot
Zumba Josie celebrated 7 years of fitness and fun by having a party and a great Zumba Bake Off at Norton Village Hall. I hadn't quite expected the level of competition when I was asked to judge. Here's the winner! Chocolate Heaven. A tower of chocolate sponge with layers of buttercream, mountains of chocolate and a secret stash of smarties in the middle. Made by mother and daughter team Sue and Grace.
- runner up - Black Forest Gateau
- more cakes!
- runner up - Fruit Mousse Tower
- winner - Chocolate Heaven
- runner up - Zumba cake
We met Amos Smith aka Mossy back in the middle of 2016 when he brought us some test jars of his deliciously moreish homemade yogurt. He wouldn't deliver until he was sure he had perfected the recipe, which had been handed down to him from his Auntie Jo. So we waited patiently. When it finally arrived we loved the slighty sweetened, faintly caramel like natural bio yogurt. In fact we have been watching Mossy and waiting ... and waiting for the product to launch. At last Mossy has his production line up and running and his yogurt production perfected. Check out this map of stockists.
Wah Gwaan? Every Thursday night is Nyammings Night at Dutchie and Grill. Suffolks best (and probably only) Jamaican Restaurant. Marie cooks everything herself in this small restaurant and takeaway. Thursday night is all you can eat, including dessert for £15.00. One Love!
Since starting her home bakery Moo Moo Cakes in July 2014, Fiona has been creating rustic wedding cakes. Packed full of flavour and looking naturally beautiful, all are baked using un-refined sugars, even the icing sugar, giving the buttercream a depth of flavour, richness and golden colour that you don’t get in processed white icing sugar. Big flavours come from amazing ingredients, all essentials being organic. Added to that a mix of local and delicious seasonal produce. Fiona's wedding cakes come in many gorgeous forms, shapes and sizes. Like this four tier organic vanilla wedding cake dressed with seasonal berries and organic edible flowers (above). Or this two tier elegant ‘barrel’ style naked cake(below). The base tier is organic vanilla, buttercream and Tiptree (she's a big fan) strawberry jam. The top tier is a luscious lemon cake, teamed with a lemon juice buttercream and Tiptree lemon curd. Dressed with cream roses and ribbon.
Fiona offers wedding cake consultations at her home. She says it's a fabulous time to drink tea, eat cake and talk about how she can make your wedding, magical and delicious. How about this gorgeous ‘drip’ cake? Two tiers of triple layered vanilla cake layered with chocolate ganache & wrapped in vanilla buttercream. Dripping in homemade salted caramel and topped with homemade salted caramel popcorn. Drip cakes can also have chocolate (dark or white) drips, topped with crushed nuts, meringues, chocolate shards, flowers. Ooh! now you're talking!
Dave is Head Chef at The Unruly Pig in Bromeswell. He takes full advantage of his abundant Suffolk surroundings by cooking local and seasonal produce with an Italian influence, much of it on his charcoal fired Inka grill. Here is his recipe for Sage and Thyme Stuffed Rabbit, Baked Polenta and Cauliflower. No grill required for this!
Stephany Hardingham, from Alder Tree Ice Cream has created a delicious Christmas Pudding Ice Cream. Made at Alder Carr Farm in Creeting St Mary the artisan-made dessert is a treat for the grown ups, who will enjoy the taste sensation of Christmas pudding without the heaviness of the traditional pudding. The cinnamon infused ice cream also has a good dash of brandy - perfect on top of your mince pies!
Harriet makes courgetti for her work colleagues.They take her courgettes from their gardens and she spiralises away in the evening. Well someone has to do it!
Made on site, at the build up for the 1st European Games, Asberbaijan. The creative team from the UK fancied some home comforts. They sent me a picture of the results and the recipe:
One packet cake mix from a local Baku supermarket. (instructions in Russian)
Some water to add to the cake mix.
A 2 litre paint cup and stick for mixing.
An old camping oven found on site.
A coerced Quarter Master to keep an eye on the cakes and remove from the oven once cooked. (the team were working)
A plastic bag to mix the icing and use with the corner cut off to decorate the buns.
Alan is the Executive Head Chef at Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa.He shares his bun recipe that he created as part of a breakfast offering for 250 chefs and catering industry leaders.The base of the recipe is a Chelsea bun. The filling for the buns has cut mixed peel, chopped pecans, maple syrup and Pancetta. For the topping Alan uses his favourite buttercream recipe;it really is worth the extra effort of making it. The recipe calls for making an Italian meringue before adding the butter. This topping just melts in the mouth beautifully.
Makes 10 standard size or 20 small buns.
500g plain strong flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet of fast action yeast or 16g of fresh yeast
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 free range egg
Vegetable oil for greasing
For the filling
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
100g cut mixed peel
75g chopped pecans
15 slices of Pancetta cooked, cooled and crumbled
For the glaze
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast.
- Meanwhile, warm the milk and butter in a saucepan until the butter melts and the mixture is lukewarm.
- Add the buttery milk and egg to the flour mixture and stir until the contents of the bowl come together as a soft dough. (You may need to add a little extra flour.)
- Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface. Knead for five minutes, adding more flour if required, until the dough is smooth and elastic and is not sticky.
- Lightly oil a bowl with a little of the vegetable oil. Place the dough into the bowl and turn until it is covered in the oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside in a warm place for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Lightly grease a baking tray.
- For the filling, knock the dough back to its original size and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a rectangle 0.5cm/¼in thick. Brush all over with the melted butter, then sprinkle over the brown sugar, cinnamon and peel, pecans and bacon.
- Roll the dough up into a rolling pin shape, cut ten 4cm slice and place them onto a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving a little space between each slice. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
- Bake the buns in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.
- Meanwhile, for the glaze, heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the buns from the oven and brush with the glaze, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.
Buns are prepared and proved in paper cases
For the Italian Meringue Buttercream
75 g egg whites
140g caster sugar
225g salted butter
- To make the syrup, place a sugar thermometer in the saucepan and heat water and 120g of sugar over a medium-high heat.
- Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Once stiff gradually add the remaining sugar to the meringue.
- Raise the heat under the syrup and bring to 245 degrees F, once reached remove from heat and slowly add to the meringue, reduce the whisking speed to medium and mix until cool. Once cooled ( must be cooled or the butter will melt and the buttercream be too soft) add the butter a tablespoon at a time, beat until fully incorporated.
Decorate with the buttercream and a rasher of crispy Pancetta
Lambrusco and a Longhorn T.Bone. Who would have thought it from our February Dish of the Day - Justin Sharp at Pea PorridgeWritten by Ruth
Lambrusco from Italy must surely be one of the most unfashionable wines of the past 20 years. Sweet, light and inexpensive, they have suffered a bad reputation. Many mature drinkers may still run as far as possible from the style, but an upsurge in quality is slowly changing people's perspective.Younger generations of winemakers are practicing new techniques and their wines can be enjoyed in many wine bars and top end restaurants throughout the world, and locally in our humble little back street bistro in Bury St Edmunds, Pea Porridge.
Its not entirely easy to obtain the wines that are fronting the “real” Lambrusco revival (although Waitrose have a simple one!) The best sources are in independent merchants and restaurants like Pea Porridge.We have a lovely light pinkish Lambrusco which we offer by the glass as an aperitif, but when it comes to eating meat we have an outstanding red Lambrusco from a producer called Quarticello.
Roberto Maestri works organically and biodynamically on 5 hectares of vines set on clay gravel soil. He only uses wild yeasts and his bubbles are made the traditional way in Emilia Romagna with the second fermentation completed in bottle.The wine is bone dry and full of earth with plenty of wild fruit. It practically screams for meat in any guise, especially those straight from the grill. In this case a big hunka T Bone of Longhorn beef!
Longhorn cattle are a brown and white breed originally from the north of England. This old fashioned breed was developed 200 years ago and was the breed that made England famous for its fine roast beef. It has been largely forgotten, but the quality remains outstanding, It is now certified rare breed . We buy it hung for 5 weeks so the fine grain, well marbled meat reaches its maturity and full potential. Wonderful paired with Lambrusco.
We have recently started cooking almost all of our meat over charcoal, for a natural and pure flavour with smoky hints. We use a Big Green Egg which is a ceramic unit in which you can grill, smoke, bake at exact temperatures by easily adjusting the airflow controls, maintaining precision and accuracy as well as outstanding flavour.
So come check us out, try for yourself the combination of great charcoaled meat with a glass (or two) of pure, frothy,earthy Lambrusco.