Sunday, 30 January 2011


My daughter, bridget, is getting married in August, and we really want to try to grow the flowers for the wedding. We are not aiming for posh arrangements, as we will be in a field, but I would like to think I could manage to produce quantities of sweet pea, cosmos, larkspur, dahlias etc. Sarah Raven has become my mentor, and I am told she has even published a wedding flower book, although I can't find it on Amazon.
 I shall also have to think about the food. What is in my head at the moment is slow roast  shoulder of pork... a big rustic roast for each table. It's possibly not the easist thing to achieve, but I can't think beyond it at the moment.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Wonderful news recently that Skye Gyngell got a Michelin Star for Petersham Nurseries. I can't help wondering how she selects and manages her team of chefs. She cooks so instinctively, and has worked out her own way to do things, there must be some bending of wills for chefs to unlearn what they have previously been taught. She doesn't wear whites in the kitchen, which indicates that she doesn't even see herself as a 'chef ', rather as someone who cooks, both at work and at home. The thing is with cooking, that there is no right or wrong way (with the possible exception of baking). What matters is the combination of flavours and textures that go on the plate. I feel that Gyngell aims for clean, fresh, true food, and her methods would be derived from a desire to achieve this. This is not to imply 'flimsy' or 'delicate' or that she has a  'feminine touch'....gutsy flavours will be there when necessary. I suspect that Petersham Nurseries is unlike anywhere else to work in. The Bay Tree, also, is a bit unlike anywhere else to work in. Obviously, there will never be a Michelin Star for The Bay Tree, not least because I try too much to be all things to all people, ...... we serve anything from a simple baked potato up to the gorgeous coley with fennel veloute that Jonny made last week.

To read the Rose Prince article about Gyngell's Michelin Star, go to

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Although we are in the depths of winter, there are nevertheless some lovely bright days which turn customers' thoughts to eating something lighter than mash and gravy sort of dishes. I resurrected a salad recipe from the old days this week. I had bought some pink grapefruit and really wanted to make a Thai sort of salad with chicken and prawns. But two other spicy things on the menu meant that I had to think again. So we went for honey and mustard marinaded chicken, served with a rice, banana and coconut salad. Here is the recipe.....for 6 people
250g/8oz cooked long grain rice
1 banana
4 scallions, chopped
50g/20z dessicated coconut
1 red pepper
1 red chilli, finely chopped
 2.5cm/1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander
a handful fresh mint leaves

juice of 2-3 limes
1 tsp sugar
4 tbs sunflower oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
salt and pepper

Skin the red pepper, either by charring on a gas flame or just peeling with a peeler.
Chop or slice the red pepper.
Wash and chop the fresh coriander and mint leaves.
Slice the banana, and mix with all the other salad ingredients.
Mix the dressing ingredients together and add to the rice, banana and coconut mixture.
Season and taste.

This rice mixture is also good eaten hot with either spicy or plain chicken or fish.
I had a busy weekend last weekend, as we had friends for dinner on Saturday night, followed by our Bay Tree staff Christmas party on Sunday. Both nights were great fun, but very different. My menu for Saturday if anyone's interested was roasted beetroot with goats cheese and cranberry salsa; duck confit with puy lentils and seville orange chutney, baby potatoes and chicory salad; mini meringues with tropical fruit and passionfruit puree; cheese and bics and nobody wanted coffee (Brian told them they didn't anyway). The cranberry salsa was very tart and needed a lot of honey to make it palatable, but it's quite a successful mixture.Unfortunately I haven't got a picture of it.....

Monday, 10 January 2011

this week's tasks

The build up of rubbish all needed to be cleared away at the end of last week by the bin monitor, (that's me) that took about half a day, and is part of the reason that not much progress has been made.
An update on the last post's yet, no sour dough; as yet no daily ice-cream, despite egg yolks in the fridge; as yet no home made pasta. However, a slight nudge in that direction has been made. As we had run out of strong flour, and no delivery was possible for another few days, when I was in the Asia supermarket, inspiration struck, and I inquired as to whether they had strong flour,(to save me calling in at Tesco on the way back). Yes, the gorgeous foreigner replied, wait there. He produced a very large and expensive bag of 'oo' flour. I dithered a little, as it was so expensive(£23.50 for 25 kg), but, thinking of the check out queue in Tesco, and allowing myself to see this as a sign that pasta making was about to begin, I bought it (along with the Chinese carry out boxes, the coconut milk, the frozen Kaffir lime leaves, Fenugreek powder, Pomegranate Molasses, Tsing Tao beer, etc). I think we might start next week with everything.....oh yeah!
Things to do this week include an orange and brandy bread and butter pudding, marmalade, carrot cakes, and Baillies and Banana Toffee pies. I was watching Lorraine Pascale's cookery show this evening on telly, and I think I can definately learn a few tips from her to smarten everything up a bit. Our desserts taste good, but they aren't 'wow' enough visually. The picture above is of our pecan pie. It looks a bit overdone; we must be braver and take it out of the oven after the hour, even if it is still wobbly. I shall photograph any successful efforts i have in the future.
We made a little progress with our terrible lighting today. The low voltage bulbs that we have are so dim during the day that it's difficult for customers at certain tables to read anything, and then at night, when we need to create some atmosphere, although we use a dimmer switch, it seems too bright. So these are all going to be changed, quite soon....after we have acquired a new mouli machine for the mashed potato,( and the ice-cream maker!).

Monday, 3 January 2011

back to normal

It was wonderful that my first day of 'back to normal' was actually a bank/public holiday...I'm not sure which. This meant that we were very busy, and the kitchen just thrives on 'very busy'. We did 142 lunches, which is quite good use of our 60 seats. Tomorrow will be a lot quieter, and will give us time to catch up with desserts, traybakes and cakes. We really must make some new desserts.
There are three things that I want to tackle this year. 1) sour dough bread; 2) homemade pasta; and 3) ice_cream. I mean I want to really make them regularly, so that it isn't a big effort. Skye Gyngell told us at the previously mentioned cookery demonstration at Ballymalloe, that she makes ice-cream every day. This must mean that they have a routine of making a custard at the end of every day (and we could easily do this as we always have lots of egg yolks over from making meringues), and then first thing in the morning the ice_cream maker does it's churning, and it would be ready for lunch. Well, we don't have a machine yet, but maybe I could find a second hand one, and then it would just be about sticking to systems.
I might delegate the sour dough bread.
The pasta will be fun if we have a team effort, I think. we must set a date. I was reading Stevie Parle in the Saturday Telegraph last Saturday...he was writing about how the pasta sauce dictates the shape of the pasta. But I long to make tasty I must practice at home.
We are changing the evening menu again on Wednesday which is exciting, although we will be keeping the Coley dish that has been well received. I like this dish because it is light, individual and very tasty. The above picture is of Glen chopping parsley or something. He will play a major part in the new menu.