Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Mexican is the new Thai

Mexican is, it seems, the current flavour, with a few new venues opening nearby and a very established one in the city centre. William's day off is incomplete without a 'Boojum'! How clever they are in Boojum.....they offer a small range of  fantastically tasty food, they serve it quickly, (even though there is often a very conspicuous queue at lunch time) and their location is spot on.

In The Bay Tree, we have gone for a bit of Mexican too, with the help of Thomasina Myers and her lovely colourful books. Well, actually, it's just her books that have helped us! I sent off to The Cool Chile Company for some Chipotle chillies, and I have become less of a coward with the Scotch Bonnet chili, which I can get in Tesco.
From this book, we make Chipotles en Adobo. As Thomasina says 'this smoky, slightly sweet puree harnesses the intense flavours of dried chipotle chillies, lasts for months, and is an indispensable ingredient.....a small teaspoon is delicious stirred into stews, pasta sauces, dressings and mayonnaises'. So, that's what we do........
We are currently serving Chicken Adobado on our Friday night menu. Adobado means marinated, and what a marinade it is....punchy and aromatic, and we serve it with refried beans, soured cream and pink pickled onions. Refried beans are another thing I used to be a bit afraid of. I thought they would be fairly dull and give me wind. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Delicious and hardly any wind.
I am going to Australia in July to visit Bridget, and I shall photocopy a few more Mexican recipes to try while I'm there. I'm looking forward to lots of eating!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Friday night dinner

Well, we have gone back to opening just one night a week (down from 5) It has been a bit liberating really. Liberating and exciting. I have been serving dinner on Friday night since September 1994, and recently it has felt like those old days. One night a week makes it just a bit more special, a private dinner party almost. Also, now I don't do quite so much in the kitchen, I have time to go out into the restaurant and chat with customers. Restaurateurs are hosts after all. I always used to have a word with everyone at the end of the evening, but then the workload seemed to increase, in terms of getting ready for the next day etc, and I stopped communing with the world outside the kitchen. Having a beer,clearing up and going home became what I did. How much better to hear what people have eaten and get a few tips about making things better!

Friday, 2 December 2011

wedding and christmas

It's been a long time since I've been on my blog, and, like running and ironing and everything else, the longer you leave it the harder it is.But it's Friday night, and I ......well, here I am.
The wedding, with which I was a bit preoccupied in previous posts, was marvellous. We very luckily selected the one good weekend of the summer. Bridget had put in a lot of planning and effort to make everything pretty, and I had agonised about the garden and to a lesser extent, about the food. Dear brother Nick helped us out with the drink. Jeremy, the groom is a musician, so that was the music sorted, and Bridget's cousin Ben, Nick's son, makes music videos, and so has captured the day on film. It now all seems so easy! It was really lovely.
Now, it's back to The Bay Tree. Tonight was the first night of the new menu which is a bit Christmassy. First nights are always a bit tricky, and there are maybe a few forgotten bits and the first turkey customer only got one of the promised two stuffings (a lost in the fridge situation), but they did get bread sauce which they weren't expecting.Our Christmas dinners are good....homely and good. I always hope that the providers of the great meal on 25th December get to come to The Bay Tree in the weeks beforehand and enjoy turkey etc that they haven't had to prepare themselves.
That's all for now, but hopefully I've got going again....we have lots going on.
The photo is from the wedding day, and features mainly Rudbeckia, but also a fab Dahlia that Bridget carried, some white Larkspur, which I loved, and a gorgeous lemon Sunflower all of which I shall grow again.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

more gardening

Quite a lot of the seedlings mentioned in my last post have found homes. Not all of them have survived the lack of rain, and watering is an onorous evening task. No hose here. The water barrels are all empty. However we do have a well in the vegetable garden. Not a well with a pump or anything convenient like that. We chuck a watering can with a rock in it into the well, holding on to the rope which is attached to it. We hold the watering can under the water with a stick until it is full. Then we haul it back up the steps of the well losing quite a bit of the water on the way, and then  set off to water one of the 30 rows, and repeat the process many more times. It's rustic! But things are growing and it's looking good.
I have been having a go at growing pea shoots and micro leaves in the green house. I have sprouted seeds for years now, and they are sometimes on our super salads at The Bay Tree. While sprouting seeds just involves rinsing the seeds twice a day, the micro leaves are grown very thickly in compost. I have a lovely box of purple basil seedlings or micro leaves, which i can't bring myself to cut so gorgeous are they. The other box of Basil I didn't manage to sow thickly enough, so they aren't quite so successful. I must keep sowing and keep them coming.
The Bay Tree is entering summer mode. We will be experimenting with lighter dishes, and I will be looking up Skye Gyngell and Nigella Lawson for inspiration.Maybe even Delia might help. When designing menus, I like to think what I personally would want to eat on a night, or lunch, out. We want to offer light, tasty and gutsy food, using ,sometimes, unusual ingredients, and we need to be able to serve it quickly and easily. My brother Nick says that a dish should have no more than 3 parts so that it can be accomplished speedily. I always bear this in mind.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Well, once again, I come to my blog tardily. It's not that I am not at The Bay Tree as much as usual, or that I am not trying new recipes and food combinations, or that Jonny (chef) and I havn't been working on the new evening menu. No, all these things are as normal. However, my greenhouse, outside my greenhouse and my car are all overflowing with seedlings, many of which I now need to get into the ground or pots. I hardly know where to start, and I can't decide which would look best where. And then there is the  large amount of soil preparation also needed ....Sundays are spent pulling out ground elder and dividing yet more plants (plus mixing and making compost with all the peelings from The Bay Tree)
There seems to be so much to do....aaaaagh, I'm in a frustrating paralysis. The garden is at a very demanding stage of the year, and were you to see it, you wouldn't think I cared about it at all, so messy is it. Tidiness doesn't come naturally to me, and this applies to the kitchen too.. I feel I can achieve more by just blasting on and getting everything done, but now that I share the kitchen with other chefs.....well, lets just say they disagree. I'm self taught, and didn't learn in the tyrannical regime of a hierarchical kitchen. So, you are reading the blog of an old dog learning new tricks. This is good for me, but is still work in progress.There is one small corner of the kitchen that now actually offends me when its messy, so I can honestly say I keep that half a square metre very nicely, but I need to start having those feelings about the whole kitchen at work, and at home, and in both my gardens.
The reason for all the seedlings is ofcourse the wedding, and this is why its a bit important that they should be put in the right place, although William did point out that no one is going to leave the wedding saying 'nice wedding, shame about the plants'. I'm looking forward to 2 days in the garden at Easter, and hopefully that will make me feel I'm more on track.
I must just finally report....that Simnel cakes have been made (ref my last blog). We even made some cup cake sized ones, which look great, but couldn't carry the required 11 marzipan balls. We will try Lorraine Pascale's Rum and Pear Simnel cake from the Observer Food Monthly magazine next...sounds great.

This is a photo of Jonny the chef, chopping scallions, and in the background you can see the very precious soup whizzer.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Mother's Day and Easter

It's a month since I last wrote in my blog....I let the momentum go, and I've misplaced my camera. However The Bay Tree and I are both well. I have been using Camelias from William and Tanya's garden for the tables for the last week or so, and although they don't last very long (3 days max), they do look great at first. I used them on Mother's day first of all.
 We offered a nice lunch menu for Mother's day, and had a lot of bookings, even turned a few people away, but were then a bit disappointed when some of the bookings were expecting breakfast, not lunch. Communication and organisation problems. We'll do better next year!
My cup cakes are slowly improving. I have learnt a new little trick with an apple corer. That is to remove the centre with the corer, and insert some lemon curd or fruit or some other tasty stuff, put the little tuft back and then pipe icing over the now uneven top. It works brilliantly. I am becoming more assertive with the piping bag. Cup cakes apart, I am going to make a Simnel cake in the next few days, with its eleven balls of marzipan on top, representing the eleven apostles who went to heaven. I wonder if it will sell. Maybe it's not naughty enough. If I had to choose between Pecan pie and Simnel cake, I would definately go for Pecan pie.