There's something about the low sun and the cooler days that tempts me to get out the last of my 2017 green tomato chutney to dollop on a generous portion of game pate and crisp, warm buttered toast. I tried Wild and Game Grouse Brandy and Herb Pate and also their very nice Pheasant, Pistachio and Port Pate. A rather lovely late lunch. Pheasant season starts soon. Whoop!
These little botanical and fruit pockets arrived in the SuffolkFoodie mail box last week and proved to be the perfect excuse to get the gin bottle out and experiment a little. The infusion pockets are fully biodegradable and plastic free (round of applause for that) and have been created by Dominic Limbrey of D.J. Limbrey Distilling to add an additional dimension to a drink. As Dominic suggests, add a different dynamic to your favourite cocktail, pimp up your prosecco or simply add the botanical bags to your tonic. We dangled the cold infusions bags into all manner of mixes and came out with top marks for the Stirring Botanicals in our gin. (elderberries, burdock root, juniper berries, liquorice root, coriander seeds, dandelion leaves, honeybush, elderflower, allspice berry, cardamom, hibiscus, apple, fermented lemon peel, rosehip, orange peel) The Summer Equinox (hibiscus, apple,rosehip,lemon verbena, freeze dried raspberry, freeze dried strawberry) mixed with a plain tonic scored well in our Drinks for Drivers category. Of course Mr S.Foodie enjoyed the lekker flavours of South Africa in his Rooibos Spice infused lemonade. DJ's Cold Infusion Pockets retail at £9.99 for a box of 10 and you'll get a free stirring spoon if you buy a box before 31st December 2018. That's a Christmas present sorted then.
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
This week we've been sampling game sausages, sausage rolls and pies sent to us from new food producer Wild and Game. They are a new not-for profit food business aiming to turn us into a nation of game eaters. I'm not sure if there's much converting to do here in East Anglia, where we eat a lot of wild meat, but the game goodies will be available online to pubs, restaurants, small shops and the general public, so great for those that find it hard to visit a decent butcher. "We're keen to make game more prominent in the UK diet", says Steven Frampton, who runs the business with Michael Cannon. Products are supplied frozen and available all year round. Our box arrived on the hottest day of the year, tightly packed in ice, still frozen solid after an overnight delivery. Best of the products we tasted were the sausages, including the pheasant and pear, pheasant and venison and pheasant and white wine. All were a big hit with Mr SuffolkFoodie and notably very good eaten cold the next day. Keep an eye out for their new products. Pheasant Lasagne anyone?
- beautifully packed in ice, arriving frozen
- enormous pasties
- pheasant meat sausage rolls
- 70% meat content sausages
- pheasant and venison sausages
The food is always very good at The Giggling Squid and it's a particular favourite of Mr SuffolkFoodie who loves a massaman curry. An invitation to try the new summer cocktails and menu last week took no hesitation to accept, so we headed off for supper. Our local branch of the Thai restaurant is Bury St Edmunds, which always seems quite lively and buzzy in the evenings, in fact we both sat by the window and reminded ourselves of how charming the town is on an early summer evening. Cocktails are made with Fever Tree mixers, so high quality and great tasting for a start. I tried a 'Thai Coconut' made with gin and coconut flavoured rum, mixed with ginger ale and fresh lime. Sunshine in a glass! Mr SF enjoyed the strawberry, mint and lime 'Strawberry Cooler,' no alcohol in this one and gets a big tick in the drinks for drivers box. Only gripe is the plastic straws. Food lived up to expectation especially my refreshing starter of Lime and Chilli beef, which was thinly sliced rare, roast beef with a zingy and powerful chilli lime dressing. I'm going to try making this one at home. Thai chicken wings seemed a bit of a safe bet for Mr SF, but actually they were far superior than many and very well seasoned with lots of garlic and fresh coriander. Keang Pa was my choice for main course. The prawn tropical jungle curry was refeshing and again, very spicy with a clear and light broth, rather than the usual coconut milk associated with Thai curries. It was very fragrant with a strong punch of aniseed from the Thai basil and rather tasty pickled peppercorns, which took me by surprise. Beef appealed to Mr SF and an enormous bowl of Beef Rib with Coconut Sauce and a generous quantity of oyster mushrooms arrived for his main course, just a little too creamy for me though. A side of noodles and coconut rice were shared. We also shared a dessert of Caramelised Mango Cake, which although light lacked any real mango flavour and in hindsight we should have remembered that the ice creams and sorbets are always better here. The wine I ordered by the glass was new to the list. Le Secret, Saint Pierre Cotes de Provence Rose, which whilst having a lovely peachy and slightly spicy, strawberry fruit flavour maintained a decent amount of acidity going very well with my curry. Pranee Laurillard, the co-founder of the Giggling Squid is shortlisted for Restaurateur of the Year Award at the 2018 Cateys, one of the most prestigious awards in UK hospitality. Suffolk Foodie wishes her the best of luck!
- Lime and Chilli Beef
- Thai chicken wings
- Keang Pa, Beef Rib and Coconut Sauce, Noodles and Coconut Rice
- Caramelised mango cake
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
If dining in is the new dining out then The Spice Pioneer subscription box will be a great success. Members receive a spice box each month in the post which includes a menu plan and recipes. Enough to impress your friends and create a dinner party for four people. There's a postcard from the place that inspired the menu (each month is a surprise and travels the culinary world) and a link to a music playlist to set the scene while you are cooking and dining. The spices are provided for a starter, main course and side dish or a dessert. I've been sent the aromatic Moroccan box and the spicy Sri Lankan box to try, both with easy to follow and inspiring recipes. The quality of the spices is really very good, and for those of you out there unlikely to have a store cupboard with the selection required to cook amazing curries and spicy dishes, then this is the answer. You do need to go and buy the main ingredients but the shopping list is concise and easy to snap on your phone camera. Nothing complicated to search for with all the Moroccan box ingredients found in Lidl and the Sri Lankan ingredients all from Asda.
- Chicken tagine with apricots ginger and ras el hanout from Morocco
- Orange and date salad with preserved lemon and pomegranate molasses from Morocco
- Spicy green beans and black mustard seed from Sri Lanka
- Sri Lankan monkfish curry
- Beetroot curry - really very good and I would never have thought of making this before
- The spice box and ingredients purchased actually fed 6 of us.
It wasn’t hard to persuade me to swap a turkey meal for a delicious #fishmasdinner at Loch Fyne in Cambridge this week. I’m only sorry that I couldn’t try more of the menu. Trot on turkey, I'm eating more fish!
- soft crab pakora with raita ( I could eat all day)
- chilli and garlic prawns
- pollock served with mussels from the specials board
- seafood grill, the best way to try everything!
- treacle tart
- creme brulee
Here's a very tasty Christmas party menu for you instead of the usual soggy sprouts and insipid catering quality turkey. The Giggling Squid in Bury St Edmunds invited me to try their Christmas menu last week so I went on the opening 'locals night' of the massive annual Christmas Market and Fayre. Feeling all festive and with the town buzzing, the restaurant was full to the brim. I took Mr SuffolkFoodie who loves Thai food and we both ate off the Christmas Evening menu, which priced at £29.95 a head including a glass of Prosecco is great value. By the way, where is all this Prosecco coming from, apparently us Brits drink a third of all produced. I hope it's not going to run out.
- Bags of gold ...crispy spiced chicken parcels
- Prawn satay ... I could just eat the peanut sauce by itself
- Beef rib Massaman ... the highlight of the meal
- Exotic mushrooms ... garlicky and chilli hot
- Prosecco and muddled berry cheesecake
- Molten honeycomb semi-freddo
An invitation to review Giraffe in Bury St Edmunds solved my Wednesday night supper dilemma last week. It's in a part of town that I don't really go to, by the muliplex cinema. I prefer the Abbeygate Cinema with its' arty films and live streamed National Theatre performances. Anyway, I digress ... Giraffe was extremely quiet and to be honest a little chilly but Ben and Lauren who were serving kept it lively and upbeat and chatted to us, providing a great, without being overbearing, service. Well done to them, because it's hard when you are working in a quiet restaurant to keep some pace going. I'd taken Mr SuffolkFoodie so I thought that a steak would be inevitable; he always hones in on meat, being a South African. I actually think South African food will trend at some point soon, so was hoping that the menu might reflect this part of the world, especially with a name like Giraffe, but no Bunny Chow on this occasion. Mr SF chose a Chilli Beef Burrito, which he enjoyed. I had the Lamb Tagine which was a very generous portion and not shy with the meat. It arrived with some ceremony as the lid of the tagine was lifted, tah dah, revealing the dish scattered with tasty pistachios and pomegranate seeds. The blend of meat, spice and apricot was excellent, with a great depth of flavour and assured by Ben, had been made in house. For pudding, as I always enjoy something sharp and fruity, I went for the best option which was a white chocolate and passion fruit cheesecake. I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived with a fresh passion fruit drizzled across the top and not a smear of coulis in sight. A good meal, and definitely worth taking a look at if you want to take children out for a meal (kids eat free) or want a good breakfast before noon. I've been hearing good things about their £5 breakfast deal.