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My Rustic Pig

15 Nov

A few months ago I was given the opportunity to go into ‘partnership’ in rearing a pig. This would be exciting I thought, as most chefs dream of being farmers one day!(unless that is just me?). The pig was a weaner  , and looked after on a free range farm, where it was lovely taken care of by some fab people at – All Seasons Rare Breed Pigs. It had some happy months ahead of it and would need to grow up to 65Kgs before its final day would come. Anyway the pig eventually grew to 79Kgs and was taken off to a friendly Butcher to be portioned(detail not required!). Once the ‘Cutting list’ was agreed I got this huge box of various cuts /joint of pork dropped off (thanks Roy!)

One of the dishes that popped into my head was a belly pork dish id done in the past

Rubbed Belly pork

belly getting ready

I marinated the pork belly with bay leaf , garlic & fennel seeds – chopping them all fine , then adding 2 tbsp of tomato paste , sugar & seasoning. I rubbed this into the belly and popped it in to the fridge for a few hours.

I slow roasted it for 4 hours until the belly was soft & the skin was crispy.

belly with slaw & Mizuna  I finished the pork with some fresh Mizuna from the salad I had left under my cold frame , and made up a crunchy apple slaw to go with it.

all the left over pork I ‘forked’ down and we had the next day in a pulled meat bun Hmm..


Highland foray

21 Sep

A bit of a late post, I’d forgotten to post this when travelling up to Gairloch last month. We travelled up via the Trossachs through the central highlands up to the west coast – where we camped on the Gairloch coast just south of Ullapool.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, with a good pitch in the dunes less than 10 metres from the beach. The isle of Skye just across the water and some of the highest walks/climbs in Scotland on our door step!

After a few memorable days around Gairloch we headed down to apple cross and apple cross bay, where we hunted for razor clams and soft-shelled crabs to take back – and eat (to the girl’s surprise)

visiting ‘montys’ croft house – a place where monty lived the life of a crofter (living of the land & sea). Weather throughout was fab – warm currents , you can really see why this area has such good sea life/ seafood.

After a week of traveling and visiting areas of the highlands we headed south to the borders to sample some ECO hospitality. We packed the tent for the last time – as going to be staying in a Mongolian Yurt.. Very exciting!!

Lots of fun in the eco yurt – with its own ‘mod cons’ of an eco ‘peat/saw dust’ toilet and a rainwater collector shower…. which both the girls and Tricia secretly loved!

Check out the site –

owners also do B&B for those that want to be waited on.

I prefer to cook my own, on a lovely morning nothing better than a hearty Scottish breakfast


Hearty scottish breakfast ingredients:

2 x very free-range eggs, Scottish black pudding,  thyme & black pepper Cumberland  sausage, haggis farce and pork meat rosti, chestnut mushrooms and ½ a vine tomato

all can be fried – I used two pans one for the meat , one for the eggs & mushrooms. The tomatoes I grilled.

Valentines dessert day

15 Feb

Its Valentines day!  expectations running high , lack of romance ? Doing a meal is always the best option – for me (being a chef) , and at least this way I can have a nice long play in the kitchen. Although we agreed that we wouldn’t get each other prezies (we exchanged cards though:)) I thought it would be nice to do something special  – pop in a roast Honey & Mustard ‘mini’ Bacon Joint , with some veggies – sticky beetroot , roast rosemary potatoes , Carrot & swede puree. But a meal isn’t a meal with out a dessert! (& some Caramelised onion bread).

So I sent the lovely wife out for a bit (not sure where she went?!) , then ‘cracked on’ with making bread & the dessert.

Bread I’ll cover off another day – it was simple bread recipe , shaped into a bloomer, finished 1/2 way through proving with some pre-caramelised onions with balsamic.

The dessert: Strawberry & white chocolate Panna cotta with vanilla served with honey Tuille biscuits ,Star anise &  strawberry jelly.

ingredients needed:

makes 4 portions

300ml double cream

125gms white chocolate

60gms icing sugar

100gms caster sugar

1 vanilla pod – cut lengthways

2 small leaf gelatine ( 1 for Panna cotta , 1 for jelly)

120gms strawberries (6 single)

300mls water  

Tuille biscuit mix:

120gms plain flour         3 tbsp honey           40gms icing sugar          1 egg white                        1 teasp vanilla essence    30gms melted butter



Start your Panna cotta mix by bringing to boil the cream , split vanilla & 1/2 of the sugar , 1/2 the white chocolate together, then add the (pre-soaked) gelatine.Whisk over heat well. 

In a bowl whisk 3 of the cut strawberries , remaining icing sugar. Once blended combine with the cream & vanilla mix. Pour the Panna cotta mix into moulds or rings and chill in the fridge.

Mix all of the tuille biscuit ingredients together until a paste is formed. Using a palate knife spread the paste over a plastic template (I used a heart shape!). make sure when spreading the biscuit mix over the tray that the tray is either non stick or use a silicone mat. 

  Next focus on making the jelly – this goes on the top of the Panna cotta and a little used for the  sauce.

Place the water , star anise , caster Sugar & 1 of the strawberries (chopped) into a pan and bring to the boil. reduce by 1/3 – add 1 leaf of pre-soaked gelatine. Whisk until dissolved and clear. Remove from the heat. Once cool pour 1/2 on top of the Panna cotta – this should be no more than 10mm.Place back into the fridge to Set fully.  

Blend the last of the strawberries with 1/2 of the remaining jelly until a smooth sauce is made.  

The finishing touch – melt the remaining chocolate and spread over some grease-proof (shave some dark chocolate in over the white) then place in the freezer to set (very hard!) 

Plate up as the picture – I added some dried sugared vanilla, although the kids(watching us eating) didn’t get why we were eating sugared twigs….

Its Raining apples

17 Sep

High winds combined with a huge bumper crop of Apples prompted me to make & bake with my apples( I had so much I couldn’t see the grass on the garden) – as they had all fallen off (also hitting the neighbours car – sorry!) , I’ve got a mix of apples 1 tree out front of the house has – bitter cooking apples (they go a lovely rosy red colour) they have the taste similar to Bramley apples. The other Apples (in the back garden) are sweet Eatting apples – Cox’s pippins I recon?


Anyway I fancied making as lovely little Dutch apple tart with cinnamon , sultanas and a nice little lattice top( I know very fluffy!)



Dutch Apple Tart  

ingredients you will need:  

obviously some apples! x 6 med sized apples will do.

120g Sultana or raison

120g soft brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

For the pastry:

180g plain flour 

40g cornflour

100g butter(chilled)

100g castor sugar

1 egg yolk.

   Make the pastry by rubbing all dry(flour etc) with the butter , then add the egg yolk. Bring together as a paste and wrap & chill in the fridge(leave for 20 mins). 

Once chilled roll out 3/4 of the paste and place in a tart dish. Prick the bottom and put back in fridge for 10 minutes to rest.  

Peel & chop the apples(I used a mix of both). Add the vanilla 1/2 the cinnamon and the sultanas & 1/2 the soft brown sugar. 

 Place the tart in the oven to bake blind (approx 10 minutes)

 Place the apple mix into the tart case (keep some of the juice from the apples and set aside usually in the bottom of the bowl!)

Now roll out the remaining paste and cut into long strips. Secure these strips onto the outside rim of the tart with a little egg yolk & water mix.

 Now brush the reserved apple juice over the lattice , sprinkle the remaining sugar and the left over cinnamon.

 Place the tart in the oven on around 170 degree Celsius –    cook for around 20 minutes (or until the lattice is cooked and brown(ing)              


Serve this little  baby (Hot or Cold)with some Cornish clotted cream or a jug load of custard.  hmm hmm ….




Wild Camping

22 Aug

Just back from 2 weeks of camping in St Austell in Cornwall , then a few days in a little village  called Llancloudy near Ross on wyre on the border of Wales. The Weather was good and we all enjoyed being out under the stars at night..

Even though we were camping I was sure that we were going to eat like kings. A nice ‘little’ warmer was Saute chicken with bacon , baby potatoes and – you guest it finished with good old tetley bitter!!

 ingredients needed:

  4x chicken thighs & Drum sticks

  1 garlic clove (crushed)

  2 tablespoons tomato paste

  4 table spoons of sugar

  4 slices of thick smoked bacon  (chopped)

12 x peeled and washed small new potatoes

First mix the tomato paste, sugar and garlic together then rub into the thighs and drumsticks.

With a hot pan fry the chicken pieces adding the bacon 1/2 way through. Turn the chicken over ensure you brown all over (no pink chicken!).I had to use both my pans (only got two camping ones) as the chicken was a little bigger than I thought..ooops!

Once the chicken is brown add the tetley beer – this will need to reduce down

Once the beer has reduced add the new potatoes and 1 cup full of water , black pepper and salt. Simmer for around 10-15 mins or until the chicken is fully cooked through.

Serve with Crusty bread 

We managed to Buy some nice fresh crusty baguette from a local little bakery in Tintagel.

With so many places to visit – packed lunches , a rucksack and walking boots were the way forward… great fun

From St Micheal mount to the Fairy Glen near abergavennythe kids loved it….


When we were king’s in Shanghai

30 Jan

Early January I found I had (Totally out of the blue) – had to go to china – Shanghai to carry out some training with some of our china team on a new cafe opening. The training and day-to-day things were fine , we ate out a bit and saw a few sites(11 hour flight was great fun!).

A memorable place to eat was a great restaurant ( only locals – very few Europeans go there) , Du SU dong in central Shanghai.  All I can say was their ribs were great full of Schwann spices and chilli overload. We ate chicken pop pop with peanuts and chillies , some really nice sides , hot pickled crunchy( Julienne/fine batons) potato with peppers,  pulled fried chicken with fried chillies ( nice but rather hot!!) .       

We were lucky to have a guide( colleague from our China office!)  showing us the restaurants to eat in.  The people were great – really friendly and very Kind.  Westerners are seen as kings here , Chinese  people seem in general to be very happy to have us here westernising their country. Theres Starbuck’s & costa around every corner – but also some truly great little chinese bakeries and patisserie shops. As a former pastry chef I was really impressed by the quality of bakery items and amount of chinese folk having coffee and doughnuts!! odd as tea should rule here.

I thought this picture summed up me & John’s (my colleague) trip to Shanghai – this would be how we “could” have ended up  – food was great and we were treated with respect (almost treated like Kings). And after all we did fly virgin upper class too…… cheers Mr Branson  

Snow and more snow

23 Dec

Just when we thought the snow had gone ! – It’s very cold and there’s snow everywhere (well in the north-east anyway!). The kids love it as they get to throw white stuff at each other , and I get to make them a funky snowman!

We’ve just got back today from an “overnighter” in Edinburgh – It was seriously cold !! kids enjoyed it as they had a go at Ice skating and we wandered around the German market. Because it so cold I thought I’d have a go at making a nice little winter warmer – some mulled wine….

  You need:

 1x  full bottle Red wine – any strong red – i’m not fussed!

2 oranges peeled (rind , juice and orange go in)

2 x satsumas (just segments)

6x cloves

2x cinnamon sticks  , 5 tablespoons of honey

you can add a little more orange juice to make this go further or less stronger .. its your choice.

Happy festive drinking !! 

Blooming great

9 Jul

The Sun is shining and the garden is blooming Great !! Life’s good!

I’ve got a good mix of veggies and herbs in the garden , I use my pond water on the plants – it works wonders (phosphorus , something or other from the fish?) I’ve got tomatoes , strawberries , carrots , beetroot,beans ,wild garlic  & a good selection of herbs, all taken care of by my little helper (Annie ) when I’m away working.  

The plants & flowers have done their thing for another year and I’ve managed to take a load of the herbs to make this really tasty herb bread.

I’m also gonna do a double whammy by making meatballs & spaghetti – I love home-made meatballs. Kids love-making them – they get their hands in , and help mould the balls(making a mess along the way)

The herb & olive oil bread is a really good accompaniment  for the meatballs.

Ok let’s get down and dirty!!  all good meatballs start with a good sauce – this is a fab sauce!

what you need for the sauce:

1 tin/can  Chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons sugar  

2 cloves of garlic (I used my wild garlic)

30mls olive oil

1 med chopped onions(rough)

4 slices od chopped smoked streaky bacon

black pepper / seasoning

100ml water

First – heat 1/2 oil in a pan – place the onions ,finely chopped garlic & bacon in the pan sweat down for 10 mins or so – now add the chopped tomatoes , sugar , seasoning and remaining oil . Now add the water and bring to the boil – simmer for 30 mins – take off heat and blend in food processor. Pour back into the pan and place on a low heat.

Meat Ball time!! Use any good quality beef mince /or Pork mince (usually 250g will give you 8 nice balls) Mix your mince with 1 egg , 1/2 chopped onion , table-spoon of Dijon mustard ,good mix (1 table-spoon) of all fresh thyme ,oregano and rosemary. Add salt & pepper , and a good(Yeh be generous) handful of grated parmesan.  once all the mix is blended (by hand) mould into small balls and fry in a little hot oil – you only need to colour , once coloured place into the simmering sauce.

Serve with a good portion of spaghetti , make the herb bread with my basic dough recipe(follow lucys bread recipe)

 and add a good handful of mixed herbs – any will do basil , parsley , sage , rosemary ,thyme etc mix with a little olive oil – rub the herb mix on top of the bread as the picture shows

Bake the bread in the oven as bread – At 19o degrees  – the bread should be cooked in 25 mins.

serve meatballs and spaghetti with a huge chunk of this really good bread …Hmmmmm yum yum!

Spring Roast lamb

12 Apr

Easters over or gone and we’ve all eaten so many chocolate eggs – that naughty wicked Bunny!!  I’ve had to start melting them down for puddings ( so the kids don’t find them!) or souffles – incidentally I have got a great chocolate souffle recipe and it is to die for – no really!! ( I’ll post my choc souffle in the week – work dependant obviously)

Anyway on with the show – Roast lamb with sticky plum jus and sweet potato fondant 

I like to use North yorkshire or Northumberland lamb best end’s rather than a rack of lamb as I can get 2-3 nice portions from it with out so much fat.  Firstly take the eye and the fat from the bone – i usually do this by running my knife along the bone (use the bone as the guide) take the eye and fat off in one go. This could be then rolled and tied  – then cut down to make noisettes. But I want to trim the fat off completely, so all I’m left with is the eye of meat.

Ok – now lay out some cling film – place the eye of meat in the centre of the cling film. Season the lamb with black pepper , sea-salt and a touch of honey.

Now pull the cling film over it and tight down (to make a sausage) – Now holding the lamb in both hands 1 hand twist forward the other twist back – tie each end in a knot ( the lamb should be like a sausage) place in chiller (overnight if pos)

Make the sauce – cut the plum in half place cut side down in a frying pan with caster sugar placed in the bottom – place the whole pan in the oven for 20 mins (at 200 degrees celsius)

make a good lamb stock from the lamb bones -1x red onion cut in half,2x garlic cloves, bay leaf, rosemary,thyme and 2x chopped  tomaotes – place all in a tray and roast for 1 hour on slow heat in the oven . After the hour take from the oven and deglaze on the stove top with some good red wine and more honey,  once the mix has reduced down to a sticky mess  – add  1 pint of water. Reduce the stock by half and strain.

Now take the roasted plums from the oven and add the lamb sauce to the hot Pan of plums ( the sauce should darken and look instantly sticky)

Roast the lamb time!!  – Take  the lamb out of the cling  film.In a hot pan add a little olive oil place the lamb in – quickly adding some salted butter (coat the lamb in the hot butter with your spoon – while turning the lamb and colouring)

Take out and rest on a chopping board before cutting into medallions.

serve with sweet potato fondant (easy to do) , the sticky plum sauce and some greens (pak choi or curly kale) and may be some baby carrots?

I’ll try to get a recipe up along with pictures before the week-end, happy eating!

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