The Queen of Puddings

The Queen of Puddings

You know the saying, you never get an invite to Queen’s college formal and then two come at once, or is it buses? I forget. I hasten to add before any of my followers worry I’ve been slacking on my revision for finals, this is a belated review. I am always lamenting that King’s music society has no fancy end of year dinner like many other university societies ( admittedly because it is dominated by the male choir and they get fancy dinners for free), so I tend to take up offers from other colleges when I can get them. Last term it was Cauis (what Cauis lacks on an everyday basis it more than makes up for when they make an effort) this term, Queens. Of course they don’t just invite anyone to these things you have to have made a bit of an effort in turning up and take part in the concerts occasionally but luckily the Gent and I are seasoned college music society hoppers, guest appearing in a number of different concerts mostly coerced by the promise of food and drink. The only down side of this is occasionally there are members of the college you have to explain your presence to, especially fellows or even occasionally the master, in this case we kept our head down on a table with The Organist and a Hog’s head in lieu of The Yorkshireman who was unavoidably detained elsewhere. Unsurprisingly the Hog’s head was not the greatest conversationalist, but we kept it flowing (along with the wine).

Image

I would say no expense spared, but unfortunately (as I was reliably informed by The Organist) Queens charge down to the name card and it was a choice between that and the menu. This meant I knew where I was sitting, but I’m afraid meant a lot of guesswork when it came to the food. Having said that the table was suitably fancy, the bread was warm and the butter was piped into swirls which I always think adds something a little special. Image

The Gent, the Organist and I started with the white wine (not knowing what we were eating) which was adequate and settled down to enjoy a sung grace in the style of Poulenc which definitely beat a fellow attempting to sing you get at most college dinners. Then came the starter. They had clearly upped the anti presentation wise to differentiate this dinner from regular formal hall, I particularly loved the dough sticks, a step up from bread with the pate. I am guessing the pate was either chicken or duck and it was pleasantly rich, salty and creamy. Unfortunately the ratio of pate to bread was a bit overwhelming and whilst the combination of the salty pate, sweet (I want to say tomato) chutney and the soft dough sticks worked well, there wasn’t enough chutney or bread and you ended up with half a lump of pate on your plate, which (after a bit) you realise is just salty and doesn’t taste of much else.

Image

We moved onto the red for the main, usually a safe assumption, but we had both got it the wrong way round and the white was marginally nicer. It was pork belly. I was pleased at first because it was something different. A change from the college stalwarts of roast lamb, pork, beef, salmon… well you get the idea. Plus it is very hard to overcook pork belly because it is so fatty. While not the most healthy of meats, it is usually melt in the mouth with crispy crackling on top…..mmmm So I was a little confused as to how Queens managed to over cook the meat to a stringy texture with a fatty rather than crispy top, I suspect (ironically) it was actually cooked for too little time at too high a heat. Having said that I would happily eat a LOT of that mashed potato. It was buttery, with a hint of garlic, a hint of mustard, with the thick, comforting, smooth texture that solves many problems. It was complimented by the sweet and smooth carrot puree, unusually what appeared to be edamame beans, an unidentifiable sauce (which was nonetheless very nice) and crispy pancetta providing a burst of saltiness. Shame about the meat.

Image

At my last dinner in Queens the highest compliment was held by the dessert. A sweet, warm, orgasmic sticky toffee pudding which would have elevated even the worst meal to delicious in my eyes. Sure enough it came out again (a house speciality in fact). They had clearly taken notes from last time as well (or perhaps it was the extra money) but it was served with sweet, thick and creamy vanilla ice cream, which (as I been told by the Organist when I was instructed to wait for cream last time) really made the pudding even better. While they haven’t exactly showed much variety, if it ain’t broke…. It certainly left me with a smile on my face. Queens are alright at the fancy stuff, but they do the simple stuff really well.Image

Advertisements

Brined, Braised, Belly Up

Brined, Braised, Belly Up
Ingredients (serves 3)
For the Pork
3 pork belly slices
500ml water
1tbsp salt
1tsp sugar
1tbsp sherry vinegar
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
1tbsp thyme
1 nutmeg clove
1 clove garlic
3 juniper berries
For the Ebly risotto
2tbsp butter
1tbsp marmite
150g ebly
½ large onion
1 garlic clove
1tsp thyme
2tbsp pine nuts
For the Jelly
150ml Brining liquid
3 gelatine leaves
For the ceps
9 baby mushrooms
2tbsp olive oil
2tsp salt
2tsp thyme
For the jus
200ml brining liquid
½ vegetable stock cube
2tsp marmite
For the cabbage
½ savoy cabbage
25g butter
1tsp salt
3 juniper berries
To serve
4 tbsp puffed rice
2tbsp brown sugar
1tsp salt
sage leaves
1.     For the pork, boil the water then pour over the pork with all the ingredients. Leave for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the pork and bring the liquid back to the boil, reserve 150ml, remove from the heat, replace the pork and leave for a further 1-2 hours.
2.     For the jelly, with the 150ml of brining liquid reserved, heat till boiling. Meanwhile soak the gelatine leaves in cold water, then squeeze dry and mix into brining liquid till it melts. Line 3 ramekins with clingfilm and pour in jelly in a thin layer. Place in the fridge to set.
3.     For the risotto, chop the onions and garlic into small squares and fry in the butter and marmite for 5mins over a medium heat. Add the ebly and thyme and stir, gradually add up to 250ml water, cooking slowly till the mixture is thick and the water is absorbed into the ebly but it is still al dente. Meanwhile heat the pine nuts in a dry pan till toasted light brown. Add to the risotto and place aside.
4.     For the ceps, Marinade the ceps in the oil, thyme and salt for 30mins. Then cut in half and place the halves face down in a frying pan and fry over a high heat without touching them for 2-3mins.  Remove and set aside.
5.     For the Pork, heat 1tbsp walnut oil in a pan, and place the pork skin side down, searing for 6mins, until skin is brown and crispy. Sear each side 2-3mins on each side, then place to one side under foil.
6.     For the cabbage, cut the stem out and shred into wide strips. Place in a saucepan with the juniper, salt, butter and 1tbsp butter. Cook for 2-3 mins covered over a medium heat.
7.     For the jus, place 200ml brining liquid in a pan with the marmite, stock cube and 200ml water, reduce until a thick consistency (approx. 7-10mins)

8.     To serve, mix the puffed rice, salt and sugar, place on a baking tray and place in a preheated oven at 180oC for 5mins until golden brown. Place the risotto in ramekins and top with jelly then place some puffed rice on top. Place the ramekin in the top RH corner of the plate. Place the cabbage in bottom LH corner of the plate. Cut each piece of pork in half diagonally, and lay on the cabbage. Lead a trail in an L shape from each side of the cabbage with the mushrooms.  Spoon jus over the pork and garnish with sage leaves. Serve

Coast?

Coast

Anyone who knows Cambridge will inevitably remember Tatties and for those of you who don’t know Cambridge think of it as your go to hangover breakfast, weekend panini and chips or for those who live opposite, coffee break. It’s a Cambridge institution (at least if you’re a hungover student) so it didn’t go down too well when a more expensive fish and chip shop restaurant opened there this year    (Despite the fact there is still a Tatties 3mins walk away it’s the principle). Having said that, despite being as far from the sea as seemingly possible, Cambridge needs a good fish and chip place, we have so many kebab/burger/Chinese/Italian/gastropub places I think this might be the one obvious thing we are missing. So this weekend I took full advantage of the parents coming up to get them to take me for a nice lunch (after all what are parents for but making sure you’re not just living off pot noodle – on second thoughts, as if!). Coast started out well. We sat downstairs and the waiters were so desperate to take our drinks order and bring us our drinks we hardly had time to think. Ironically they then got the message rather too well and didn’t come and get our food order for another 20mins meaning we’d finished our drinks before we ordered. However this did give me time to peruse the extended menu. The first thing that struck me was that the breakfasts looked incredibly exciting (watch this space) all smoked salmon scrambled eggs etc and for about the same price as old Tatties. The main menu was equally enticing with a wide range of fish mains (fish pie, seafood tagliatelle) as well as the option to choose your own fish for fish and chips, fish cakes or grilled, all satisfyingly coming with chips. There were salads (typically overpriced) and a small number of meat and veg courses (although why you would come to a fish restaurant I have no idea). Admittedly it is a little out of student budget (Bills or Browns prices ) but it is possible to get a decent Portion of fish and chips for under £10 and they even do takeaway.

When they finally took our order they were very efficient about bringing our food out. Since the parents were paying and we were all dashing around too much that evening to think about eating, I suggested we have two courses each (also so I could try more). I may have mentioned in my San Francisco blog post how much I love crab, and I really do . I was a little sceptical of the fact fresh crab tastes the best and Cambridge is do far from the coast line….. But I was pleasantly surprised.   
The crab mayonnaise was salty and with a kick, not overly creamy and very heavy on the crab meat which is always better. The crab mayonnaise came in two huge quenelles and a hunk of bread on the plate which made me extremely happy, I always hate when you order something like this and end up with about 5 slices of bread with a teaspoon of crab on the side, the filling should always be more than the bread, not visa versa. It came with a well dressed salad and garnish of caviar which at first seemed superfluous but in fact lifted the dish, I was a very happy customer.

My dad got incredibly excited by his prawn and avocado salad because of its edible flowers and caviar, however it was concluded that my dish was better value for money as his dish was smaller, less filling and the caviar was an unnecessary addition as were the flowers. My mother’s was a lot of fun. She had piri piri prawns that came dripping in a very tasty (and messy) sauce and required a lot of work, a finger bowl and 4 napkins, but it came in a cute fake newspaper wrapping and was a good starter for anyone who likes playing with food and wants something slightly lighter but still with a burst of flavour.

Mains arrived almost as soon as our starters were picked up and they did not disappoint. You can see why the prices are higher than you expect, the portions were huge and extremely satisfying. (For real value for money go for the fish burger, only a tenner and about the size of a small dog) my mother and I went for the more expensive grilled mackeral with mash and ratatouille, while my father went for the lemon plaice, grilled with chips. Again I think we picked a winner. 

The mackeral was fiddly (it was a whole fish) but it had been butterflied and main bones removed, with a mass of charred rosemary and thyme on top. The fish was a little under seasoned (I took the lemon out of my water and spritzed this on top which lifted it) and the edge was over cooked but this just meant the centre was perfectly cooked so I could see why. It was served with a chunky pseudo-ratatouille which went very nicely with the fish but could have been a little more saucy.  The best thing about the dish though was the mash. I don’t know what they did to it ( although I suspect they cooked it a little after it had been mashed with lots of butter) but it was possibly the best mash I’ve ever tasted. It was very thick and smooth with a faint garlicky hint, it was so good I finished off my mum’s! My dad’s was also apparently well cooked and the huge mound if chips were very good, very chippy like. I tried one and they tasted so much like the takeaway chips we used to get while on holiday in Brighton, thick, chunky and slightly squashed, very impressed.

I am not easily defeated by food (see midsummer house) but after that I certainly couldn’t manage a pudding (shame I would have liked to have seen if they were any good) and was full for most of the day after meaning it didn’t matter I didn’t eat supper till 10.30. In this sense Coast is very good for filling up while your parents are here so you don’t need to spend so much on food at other times.

All in all I was quite impressed with this restaurant. Not for anyone on a diet (I’m pretty sure the salads wouldn’t be worth the extortionate price) but otherwise the portion size proves what you get for your money and the food straddles the line between homely comfort food and that extra restaurant lift. Not everyday but good for a reasonably priced treat. However I’m pretty sure it will never become as beloved as Tatties.

The Competition Entry

The  Competition Entry
For my menu, I wanted to show the ultimate British summer. I felt this would not only show off the best of British produce, specifically from all four areas of the United Kingdom, but also celebrate and support our British athletes in the games and show other countries what it means to be British, and that British cuisine is classic, tasty and summery. Each course is based around a typical British meal, bringing in elements from all areas of British cuisine and each containing 5 elements as a further tongue in cheek celebration of the Olympics, representing the 5 olympic rings.
The first course would be based on a British Picnic, for a typical summer’s day. Consisting of: 1.A mini pork pie, made with british pork; 2. an Indian spiced lamb scotch quails egg, bringing in the huge influence Indian cooking has had on British cuisine, made with welsh lamb mince, and west sussex quail’s eggs, on a spoonful of spiced mayonnaise made with british eggs; 3. a small triangle sandwich filled with smoked salmon and dill butter, pierced with a mini union jack flag on a cocktail stick, made with scottish smoked salmon and british cucumbers; 4. A small spoonful of potato salad, using irish potatoes, british walnuts and walnut oil; 5. A small spoonful of broad bean and pea shoot salad with an apple cider vinaigerette, made with somerset broad beans and cider vinegar, wiltshire pea shoots and british bacon.
The second course is a twist on Fish and Chips, what could be more traditionally British summer seaside. 1. A beer battered pea mousse, suprisingly delicious, playing on the mushy peas accompaniment, the deep fried mousse is crispy on the outside with a melting warm pea centre, made using east anglia peas and real ale. 2. The mousse will be in a small cone of newspaper with 1948 london olympic games reported along with thick triple cooked chips using Irish potatoes and finely grated flecks of warickshire berkwell hard sheeps cheese. 3. This would all be served on a rectangular plate with the cone far right and next to it a fillet of cornish pollack with a caper, lemon zest and parsley breadcrumb ‘sand’ topping (british seaside) on top of 4. ribbons of lemon and black pepper marinated raw new forest courgette ‘sea’. 5. This is all drizzled with a thin white wine vinegar mayonnaise.
The final course is based on an Afternoon tea, what could be more quintessentially British, and more associated with British sports. 1. The main event would be a cornish clotted cream cheesecake on a scone-like pastry base with a thin layer of strawberry jam ontop of the base, drizzled with 2. a strawberry sauce; 3. topped with an earl grey tea caramel shard. All accompanied by a 4. strawberry marshmallow on a stick, and 5. a single fresh strawberry – all using staffordshire strawberries.
-Pork Pie – made with british pork,
– Indian spiced lamb scotch quails egg – made with welsh lamb mince, influenced by indian influence on England and west sussex quails eggs, on a spoonful of spiced mayonnaise made with british eggs
-smoked salmon and dill butter sandwiches – made with scottish smoked salmon, british cucumbers
-Potato salad using irish potatoes, british walnuts+walnut oil
– broad bean and pea shoot salad with an apple cider vinegerette fresh mint and british bacon – using somerset broad beans and cider vinegar, wiltshire pea shoots and british bacon
Fish and Chips twist
        Beer battered pea mousse, using real ale, english peas form east anglia
        Thick chips triple cooked, using irish potatoes and finely grated flecks of warickshire berkwell hard sheeps cheese, all served in a small cone of newspaper with 1948 olympic games (last london games)
        Cornish Pollack fillet with a caper, lemon zest and parsley breadcrumb ‘sand’
        On top of ribbons of lemon and black pepper marinated raw courgette ‘sea’ – using new forest courgettes
        Drizzled with a thin white wine vinegar mayonnaise – using british eggs
Afternoon tea cheesecake
        Cornish Clotted cream cheesecake with a layer of strawberry jam made using stafforshire strawberries
        Earl Grey caramel shards
        Strawberry marshmallow
        Fresh strawberry garnish
        Strawberry sauce