8 – 12 Course Menu, with paired drinks

I have been a bad blogger.  There have been reasons for this, but I won’t bore you with them.  Instead I shall offer a gourmet feast for your delectation.

Birthday Dinner TableHowever, before I do that I’d like to quickly address a couple of things:

Firstly, number of courses…it helps to know how many you’re creating so you can brag say, “I cooked an X course meal for eight people”.  I promise, I can count up to twenty and beyond, without even using my fingers and toes, but on this I’m a little confused.

When making the count apparently certain parts of a meal don’t qualify as a course.  If you discriminate against certain foodstuffs in this fashion, and don’t include palate cleansers or coffee, then this would be an eight course meal.  I have questions about the validity of this counting method.

Then there’s the order of courses… Soup before salad? Cheese before dessert? Where do palate cleansers fit in? Surely there must be some kind of standard?  But no, apparently not.  I’m telling you, a quick look around the internet and you’ll see what I mean…anything beyond three courses the whole thing’s up for debate.  Right or wrong, this is how we opted to do things (‘we’ being me, of course!).

Centre pieceThis meal was a really fun thing to do for Big Sis’s birthday.  I had an awesome time, from planning to consumption. Hopefully everyone involved enjoyed themselves just as much!

Recipes will follow, as will the update on the now completed Cupboard Challenge, but for now, let me run you through the menu…

Amuse bouche - dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.

Amuse bouche – dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Now, those eight courses I mentioned – that includes the amuse-bouche…but are you supposed to include them?

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta
Drink pairing: Wheat beer

Twisted Waldorf Salad - savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing

Twisted Waldorf Salad – savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing
Drink pairing: Dry cider

Lemon sorbet (Not home made.  Don't judge.  Time constraints guys, time constraints!)

Lemon sorbet.  Not home made. Please don’t judge me…time constraints guys, time constraints!

Seriously now, why do palate cleansers not qualify as a course?  In a meal of this type they’re about the same size as other things that pass muster.  Seems a little wrong to me.  It’s like saying, “You’re just here to clean my mouth out…you can’t be a course, you’re not substantial enough.  You’re not even really food.”

Poor bullied sorbet 😉

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Never mind Valentine’s Day, it’s Medieval’s Birthday!

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, Barn and I tend towards an attitude of: “We will not be forced by commercialism into a faux display of demonstrating our love for each other, on a specific day, through the purchasing of unimaginative items such as flowers, chocolates and cards .”

The things he does for me unprompted, day to day, throughout the year, mean far, far more to me than any calendar decreed gesture.  Putting my clean PJs to warm on the radiator ready for when I get home from a late shift, looking in charity shops for books by my favourite authors, quietly changing the bed linen while I’m in the bath, and slipping a hot water bottle between the sheets on my side of the bed – this sort of gesture whispers sweet nothings to me in a way that a bunch of roses never could.

However, we’re fully aware that not everyone feels as we do, particularly when they are younger and fairly recently ‘coupled up’.  Medieval’s birthday falls on Valentine’s Day so, based on the assumption that he’d prefer his celebration to be à deux with Mme. H, I’ve never really considered organising anything for him.  While having a planning meeting for the upcoming celebrations for Big Sis and Mum, I discovered that this base assumption was erroneous.

“Hang on a minute,” he said, with a big old grin on his face, “I know of at least one birthday that comes before either of these two…”

“Ach, you mean yours?”, sayeth I with an airy wave of my hand.  “Don’t be daft, that’s not going to happen.  You know we don’t bother with yours.  It’s tradition.”

“Hahaha!” said everyone in the room, including Medieval, and we pressed on with our planning session.

Of course, the minute everyone left I phoned Big Sis, Mum and Mme. H, and together we hatched a plan to surprise him.

For a variety of reasons going for a ‘proper’ night out was not a viable option so it was decided I would cook a meal, which would be hosted at Mum’s house.  I find cooking in a kitchen other than my own to be a ridiculously difficult thing to do and rarely achieve the results I would at home, so I figured I’d make most of it in advance in my own kitchen, then ferry everything over for finishing off at Mum’s.  Logistics be damned!

If you’ve read the VIPs info page of this blog, you’ll already be aware that Medieval has something of a penchant for meat and chillies, which made Tex-Mex the obvious route to go.  However, when it comes to home cooking Tex-Mex , my experience to that point had been limited the occasional chilli con carne or tacos, fajitas and enchiladas made using those everything-included kits you can buy from the supermarket.

After wading around the internet amongst some fairly horrid sounding recipes (lots and lots of pre-processed ingredients), a superb tip-off from Baby Bro led me to The Homesick Texan.  What a flipping great site it is!  Most of the dishes I eventually made were inspired by recipes found on there.  I say ‘inspired by’ as quite a few ingredients were not readily available to me in the UK, thus forcing an English twist on things…Tex-Mex-En, if you will.

In the course of researching recipes for this meal I discovered two things:

Firstly, the paucity of my chilli knowledge – I need to learn about the heats, flavours and nuances of different types so that I can make better substitutions where necessary.

Secondly – I have no desire whatsoever to try this thing called Velveeta.  I do not feel the slightest bit deprived that it’s not available here.  Surely it’s not really cheese?  Does it actually qualify as a dairy product?  I believe that unopened it can sit on a shelf, unrefrigerated, for months.  Dear gods people…why would you eat that when real cheese exists? 😉


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A family that likes to brunch

Continuing the treats for Big Sis’s birthday weekend, on the Sunday we went out to one of our favourite local eateries for brunch.  Can’t fault the place –  fabulous food, excellent service, great ambiance, and all within ambling distance of home.

After much dithering I ordered the corned beef hash…with a bacon sandwich on the side. Freshly squeezed orange juice and copious cups of tea completed the delicious meal.


Salt beef with grated potatoes and parsley, served with an egg on top, crispy bacon on the side and a puddle of yummy but not identified sauce.20140504_114750Slabs of bacon, crispy round the edges, liberally sauced with good ol’ HP and presented between thick slices of soft, freshly baked bread.  Now THAT is what you call a bacon butty!

20140504_114530Heaven help me, how did I become part of an Instagram family?!

Medieval despairs as we all delay eating by whipping out our cameras.  A full English awaits his ministrations.


Get in the bowl M&M cake for Medieval

For Medieval’s February birthday I was inspired by one of his favourite adverts at the time, creating a giant M&M in a bowl.

The M&M was a chocolate fudge cake with peanut butter Italian meringue buttercream (don’t knock it ’til you try it…it’s gorgeous!) , covered and decorated with fondant.  This was baked using the same cake tin as for the corset cake…this time the cake wasn’t over baked and dry!

The arms and legs were sculpted from rice krispie treats, painted with melted white chocolate then covered with fondant.  If I did this again, I’d probably rethink the finish of the limbs, as they way I did it this time meant they had an unfortunate phallic appearance when separated from the body :S

The bowl was again chocolate fudge cake, this time with salted caramel icing, covered in toffee flavour fondant.

You get in the bowlMaking this was really enjoyable, and not difficult to accomplish…it just took some patience.  I thought covering the the M&M and the bowl would be the hardest parts, but in actual fact it was the limbs.

It was nice to actually be able to see a cake being enjoyed…it was a very social cake, with people getting involved with dismembering it and generally having fun.

Good times.