Saturday, September 25, 2010
My wife recently had a milestone birthday and to celebrate I whisked her off to the Cotswolds for a seductive mini-break. I'd never been before. Oh, I heard stories and read articles about all the famous supermodels and actors who kept homes there, but it always seemed so far away. The Cotswolds to me had always been this fairytale land filled with postcard picturesque beauty and untouchably attractive people. And I was right. Driving along those ultra compact back roads, I felt like I was in the Beverly Hills of England. I imagined that at any moment Kate Moss would step out into the road, cigarette in one hand, bottle of Champagne in the other, rolled up £100 note and compact mirror in the other. Ok, bad joke. But I think you get the point. Beauty is everywhere here and in all forms.
Our dinner reservations were for 7pm and I couldn't wait to eat. All that country air had done wonders for my appetite. We headed straight for the dining room and before we could enter we were apprehended by a rather curt Englishwomen named Rachel. She asked if we had a reservation and I told her yes. She then told us to follow her into the bar and have a drink before dinner. I told her in no uncompromising terms, "NO thanks," and began to push my way past her into the dining room, but Rachel was too quick for me. She stepped in front of me with lightning speed and said, "right this way, sir." I gave in and followed her, but not before taking a few vociferous breaths in her direction. Just to make my point.
Almost as soon as we sat down we were handed the menus. We ordered quickly and within minutes of doing so our waitress brought us a handsome looking, although tiny Fish and Chips plate. All Fish and Chips should come in this size. Imagine a world where all the blokes ate Fish and Chips out of newspaper with their pinkies. That's a world I'd like to belong to. It would cure obesity in a week. It was a clever, tasty beginning to our meal. Once we'd finished our minuscule ration of Fish and Chips we were finally let into the dining room.
Because we had ordered in the bar our appetizers took no time at all to reach us. My Roasted Quail Breast with Scottish Girolles, Caramelized Onions, Pan Fried Foie Gras, Pink Grapefruit and Sauternes Jus was delicate, but with a nice richness. It wasn't over the top like I'd imagined it to be when I read it on the menu. All the flavors were distinguished from one another wonderfully. My wife had the Caramelized Diver Caught Scottish Scallops with Crayfish Tails, Chicory, Orange, Artichoke and Vanilla. Again, all the flavors were nicely paired and the chef managed to extract all the flavor he could from these often insipid Mollusks.
When our appetizers were licked clean, we took a moment to sip the startlingly good 2006 Les Tourelles de Longueville. The second wine of Pichon Lalande. I'm a fan of Lamb. I love it. I order it whenever I see it on a menu. Except of course when I see something outrageous, or out of the ordinary like Horse Burger, or Tripe Tacos. However, the Lords of the Manor wasn't serving Tripe Tacos on this particular occasion, so instead I had the Lighthorne Farm Lamb Loin with Braised Shoulder Boulangere Potatoes, Crushed Peas, Marjoram, Wild Mushrooms, Artichokes and Lamb Jus. Again, the flavors were fully extracted from each item and they all worked together harmoniously.
About six inches from me there was an odd looking dish, which I still can't quite understand. My wife's Rabbit Poached in it's own Consomme with Lettuce Ravioli, Peas, Hand Rolled Macaroni, Cep and Tarragon was in my opinion, something the chef came up with one sleepless night when he was thinking about zany food amalgamations. The Macaroni had no business associating with the Rabbit and the result was a disaster. The beautifully put together, dainty pasta was completely overshadowed by the wild, delectable flavors of the Rabbit. The combination of textures and flavors confused my palate and I've not been forgiven since.
For dessert I chose my usual, a wonderful array of British cheeses with Grape Chutney and Homemade Biscuits. My wife, on top form, had Raspberry Souffle with Lords' Eton Mess, and Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream. Both desserts were dismantled with ease and adoration.
The Lords of the Manor Hotel restaurant is a fine example of a One Star Michelin restaurant. It wasn't mind-blowing, but it held its own. However, it was hot, priggish and Rachel still has a lot to learn about hospitality and customer service. Would I go back? No. Once was enough for me. But I did thoroughly enjoy my food. Once again, it was the employees who let the restaurant down, not the food.
My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography
Monday, September 20, 2010
My wife and I have recently renovated our flat and after four months of cooking in kitchens not our own, we are finally able to do what we enjoy more than anything else, make yummy food in our own home. This past week there has been a torrent of activity in our new kitchen. Pizza with homemade Tomato Sauce, Basil and Raw, Organic Vintage Cheddar from Plaw Hatch Farm. Tortellini with Bacon, Sage, Lemon Juice, Lemon Rind and Garlic Cream Cheese. Fresh, Organic Hummus. Seeded, Whole Grain Bread. Lemon Meringue. And most recently, Spicy Dal and Gluten Free Brownies for dessert.
You wouldn't be able to tell from reading my blog, but I actually have a sensitivity to gluten and I should stay away from it as much as possible. Of course I don't, and instead I eat as much as I possibly can. My favorite foods all include gluten. Lots and lots of delicious, gooey, tractable gluten. However, on the odd occasion when I do stick to my gluten free diet, I tend to make uber-yummy food. I just can't stomach the gluten free crap sold in supermarkets. I found this Gluten Free Brownie recipe on a brilliant site called Gluten Free Goddess. I modified it slightly to include chunks of milk chocolate, instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Unless you like your desserts ultra rich, do not attempt this. It was too rich, even for me.
Ingredients (makes 9-12 squares)
5 ounces organic dark chocolate (I used 77% Green and Blacks)
1/2 cup organic butter
2 organic, free-range eggs
1 cup fairtrade light brown sugar
1/2 cup organic almonds, processed into a fine meal
1/4 cup rice flour (I like Dove's Farm, which combines white and brown rice)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk chocolate (chopped into chunks, if you're a decadent fool) or
1/2 cup extra semi-sweet chocolate chips (just a few on the top of each Brownie)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, 350 F. Cover an 8x8 inch square baking pan with foil and using your finger coat it with a thin layer of butter.
In a mixing bowl, or food processor, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the brown sugar and continue to beat until the texture is smooth and creamy.
Place the chocolate, broken into chunks, into a glass Pyrex (or similar) bowl.
Boil water in a saucepan and place the glass bowl on the top of the saucepan. This will melt the chocolate without burning it. Another way to melt the chocolate is in a microwave. But I don't use microwaves for reasons listed here. Once the chocolate has melted add it slowly to the sugar, egg mixture. Continue to beat all the ingredients for at least a minute.
If using whole almonds, blend in a food processor until you've achieved a fine meal.
Combine all of the dry ingredients: rice flour, almond meal, fine sea salt and baking soda into a bowl and whisk them all together. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture beat for at least a minute. Add the vanilla and beat for another minute or so.
Your brownie batter is now ready.
Spread the batter into your baking pan and shake lightly to even it out.
If using chocolate chips, or chunks, sprinkle them onto your brownie batter (use sparingly) and press them gently into the batter so half of them are still showing.
Place your brownies in a preheated oven for 33-35 minutes. I cooked mine for just over 30 minutes and they were a little too gooey. Still gorgeous, but they could have used a few more minutes. But don't overcook. They'll be crumbly and dry.
Cool on a wire rack and chill before serving.
And there you have it. Healthy, organic, gluten free brownies. Well, maybe not so healthy, but all the rest. Enjoy!
My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography