Three cheers for Arla Foods, owners of Lurpack and Anchor butter who are paying their entire 2018 profit to farmers who are struggling financially due to the summer drought.
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
What to do while Mr Suffolk Foodie is busy at the build up for the Goodwood Revival and I'm left home alone in the cottage rental? Ah ha! Tinwood Estate is on the door step so off I set with my good friend Jeannie who's in the 'Can't Paint Won't Paint' Club with me. We took along Scrappy, over from Barbuda and keen to see all that our green and pleasant land has to offer. Tinwood grows the three main Champagne grapes; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meuniere. The soil is chalky and the climate perfect for making the Champagne style wine. I wish English Sparkling could have a more romantic and appealing name as it's not allowed to be called Champagne. How about Britagne? I believe there is a campaign to call English Sparkling wine plain and simple British Fizz. Maybe this could be part of the Brexit deal. Anyway, we had a walk through the very straight lines of vines, planted by Germans we were told, as they are better at straight lines. Then back to very stylish decked area for a quick tutored tasting of the three wines which are made for the estate at nearby Ridgeview winery. First we tried the Blanc de Blanc 2015, made with 100% Chardonnay, pale and refreshing and rather appley. Then on to the Brut made with 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. Very refined with a fine stream of tiny bubbles and a hint of toast, this was our favourite of the lot. We finished with the Tinwood Rose, 60% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay, forest fruity and a bit of a quaffer. Tours run everyday and it's well worth ordering the cheese platter when you book online. You can even stay the night!
- view from the deck
- pinot meuniere grapes
- chardonnay grapes
- straight lines of vines
- Inside space for the cooler weather
- Outside in the sunshine
Saturday 15th September 2018 ( 2pm to 11pm) marks the return of Star Wing’s popular hop-picking event for the second-year at their brewery in Redgrave, Suffolk. Kicking off at 2pm, all ages and abilities are invited to roll up their sleeves and enjoy an afternoon of picking hops, followed by a hearty hog roast and live music courtesy of The Ludlam Pikes and Mick the Baker Band. As a thank you, the first 50 pickers to arrive on the day will receive a voucher for a free hog roast and a free drink from the bar, including Star Wing’s distinctive ales made from the hops grown from the very soil on which the brewery stands – what better way to be rewarded for your efforts. For more information visit www.starwingbrewery.com or call 01379 890 586.
One of my home grown veggies has enjoyed the heatwave this year. It's the freaky Serpent of Sicily, also known as a cucuzza. Seeds from Franchi - Seeds of Italy. I'm going to see if this one will reach the ground.
Here's a new monthly food and flea market for you, to be held at Clare Town Hall on the third Wednesday of every month. Starting on October 17th. Check out their vintage kitchenalia. They'll also be holding a Food and Drink Fair before Christmas and are looking for a caterer to run their Cafe at this event. Anyone out there?
Peckish in Kings Lynn? Then head to Goldings. It calls itself a public house but walking in you might think deli or coffee shop. It is the side kick to the successful and well know Market Bistro next door. With an excellent cup of coffee we had savoury croissants and some rather lovely cakes.
We bought crabs, cockles, sardines, monkfish, squid and brown shrimps. No website but if you are in Kings Lynn you'll find Donaldsons at Austin Fields. Tel 01553 772241. They also sell seasonal game and have a very good delicatessen and cheese counter. Closed on Sunday and Monday. Other days 7am till 4pm.
My kind of nibbles at the Bildeston Crown.
I drove last time darling ... it's simply not good enough to expect the designated driver to settle for a J2O or a can of coke, so I am beginning to rate my restaurants, pubs and cafes according to the drinks offered for drivers. Here are a few of the great drinks that I've been offered when driving this summer. Gigembre - ginger syrup, lime and soda. Ghost Ship (available from Adnams). Bee's Knee's Prosecco style fizz (available from Morrisons). Mint Sparkle- apple juice, elderflower cordial, soda water, mint leaves. Virgin Mary - tomato juice, Worcester sauce, tobasco. Shirley Temple - ginger ale, grenadine, orange juice. Homemade lemon barley water. Homemade ginger beer. Seedlip Garden - botanicals without the gin (available from Waitrose). Damson Spritz made with a homemade damson cordial. Fresh Red - Rooibos espresso, apple juice and a squueze of lime. Strawberry Cooler- strawberry, mint and lime. More ideas here.