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
Head Chef Stuart Drane, formerly of Aurora in Ipswich and more recently Chef Lecturer at Suffolk New College, has taken up the reigns at the Suffolk Food Hall, heading up the brigade in the Cookhouse. I was invited to try the new Spring menu and after a heatwave weekend, the day I went was freezing cold and wet. So I was quite happy to see a slow cooked featherblade beef with roasted root vegetables and roast potatoes on the daily specials and ordered that for my lunch, preceeded by three very crispy and tasty fishcakes with homemade tartare sauce. The new slightly shorter Spring menu offers a very good element of mix and match menu items, and had it been warmer I would have easily been tempted by the Suffolk Gold Rarebit with a side salad. As I took Mr SuffolkFoodie I got to dip into his roasted tomato soup which had dollops of mascarpone, grated Parmesan and olive oil dotted across the surface, and also tried his Shepherds pie, which was rather delicious as it was made from slow cooked shoulder of lamb rather than the traditional minced lamb. Portions are very generous, and being conscious of the amount of food I've eaten recently judging for the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards, decided that sharing a dessert would be the healthy option. I saw some fantastic ice cream sundaes being delivered to other tables, but couldn't resist the sound of the vanilla cheesecake with burnt orange caramel and orange sorbet. The sorbet packed a punch of flavour against the creamy cheesecake and the contrasting burnt caramel flavours and was easily big enough to share. The garden centre and farm shop proved to be a good chance to walk off some of the lunch, but as always, with the next meal in mind I managed to leave with a whole oxtail to cook for the weekend. And that was delicious too!
- roasted tomato soup with mascarpone, Parmesan and olive oil
- crispy fishcakes with tartare sauce
- slow cooked featherblade with roasted root vegetables and roast potatoes
- lamb shoulder shepherd's pie
- vanilla cheesecake with burnt orange caramel and orange sorbet
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 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.
Xoliswa Ndoyiya was Nelson Mandela's personal cook from 1992. Her job interview consisted of just one question: “Can you cook our home food?”
Here is the recipe for Umphokoqo, a porridge made of maize meal and sour milk which was one of Madiba's favourite foods. He had it made whilst staying at The Dorchester in London.
Mr Suffolkfoodie having been brought up in South Africa also enjoys a bowl of this on most mornings.
In this video Peter Bayless from Braxted Park Cookery School in Witham, Essex explains how to cook the perfect steak. Peter won BBC Masterchef in 2006.
Steak is a staple of the Great British diet but all too often it doesn't get the attention it deserves. Peter shows how easy it is to cook up an exciting meal, and reveals how to make sure your steak is cooked exactly how you like it every time. Follow Peter's step-by-step guide to cooking the perfect steak accompanied with a tangy chimichurri dressing.
You will need the following:
1 sirloin steak (or steak of your choice)
Olive oil & seasoning
Cast iron griddle pan with ridges