Autumn 2019

I started this year with very good intentions about Blogging however, as life gets busy and the year takes shape I realise I haven’t really done much!  The Spring and Summer were busy with weddings, lovely venues and lovely people, just one more wedding to go for 2019 and then it’ll all start in 2020.  Scarily Christmas appears to be creeping in the shops and the diary is filling up with party bookings – I guess its time to start dusting off the mince pie tins!  However, before Christmas really starts to take hold, I’m going to enjoy this lovely weather and dig over the veggie patch – we’ve had potatoes and carrots from it this year and I did remember to water it – in between cooking and ferrying kids about!

There has also been runner beans and squashes – the squashes are so cute!  Not many so far but there are loads of flowers on the plants so hopefully those will all turn into squashes!  It’s all a bit trial and error but its really fun and when it works and you actually get to cook and eat what you have patiently been growing it’s so satisfying.  The kids are less impressed it has to be said and really don’t know what the fuss is about but I’m telling them in years to come they to will find it interesting!  Currently they just scoff at me and turn back to their phones but I’m hopeful!

 

Kitchen Garden

So about this time every year I start to think gardening – I tend to have grand plans about what to grow, how I’ll diligently look after my crop from seed to harvesting – I will absolutely water everyday if required and feed regularly!!!  Often my grand plans go a little off track as we start to hit the wedding season and I run out of time – only realising I’ve not watered in days and rather than the promising little seedlings I once had all I’m left with is shrivelled little dried out plants.

Anyway, this year it’s going to be different!  This year I will not forget to water them and I will reap the benefits of my efforts with a bountiful crop which I can use to create wonderful tasty treats!  That’s the plan anyway!  So, yesterday I happened to stumble upon a magazine whilst visiting Magazine Heaven at Rushden Lakes all about creating and looking after your Kitchen Garden AND it contained 10 free packets of seeds!  Bargain.

So, after the dogs lunchtime walk I spend a sneaky hour outside uncovering the veg patch from last year and digging it over.  It was incredibly therapeutic, especially after not being out in the garden for months.  I now have a pretty much weed free patch – which I am now wondering if its be enough, given the amount of seeds I now have – the trick now is going to be keeping it weed free whilst I’m sowing the seeds and getting them all set to go.

Next step is working out when the seeds need sowing and a trip to the garden centre for some seedling compost but that is going to have to wait until the weekend as I have cooking to do………..

January Plans

Happy New Year!  As we are now nearly half way through January I think I can probably stop saying Happy New Year but it doesn’t seem five minutes since we were all planning for Christmas – where does the time go!  Here at The Rustic Caterer we’ve had a rush of Wedding Catering enquiries, I think there must have been a few proposals over Christmas.  Congratulations to anyone planning the big day and we are always happy to be a part of the festivities.  Wedding food can seem a bit daunting to begin with – will Great Aunt Mildred like the same thing as my fiances five year old cousin? – who knows, which is why a rustic style buffet works for everyone, so we’ve been experimenting with a  few recipe ideas for our buffet menus.

Pesto has always been a favourite here but we’ve tried a few different varieties and a stand out winner was the Sun-dried tomato pesto, which we smothered on to Roasted Red Peppers and rolled up and they were totally delicious – also vegan to which fits in nicely with the Veganuary theme currently running through the month.

Not vegan though but delicious and vibrant all the same are these lovely asparagus spears which have been seared in a little olive oil and rock salted and then wrapped in smoked salmon and tied with chives.

I think these might be appearing on our Wedding Buffet menu this year – not this batch though they have all gone in the name of research!

Time for some more research I think……………………..what to try next?

Lunch at Oundle School

Catering at Oundle School today in the very lovey new Cricket Pavilion.  It was a light buffet menu which included Yorkshire Puddings stuffed with Beef and a Horseradish Cream, Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Filo Tarts, Lamb Koftas with a Mint Raita, Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Pesto Skewers, Crostini’s filled Stilton, Walnuts and Pomegranate and Chicken Caesar Salad Bites.
Ultimate Chocolate Mud Cake

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake!

We might be late for Valentine’s Day but this recipe is such a guilty pleasure we just had to share it. We found it in the Delicious Magazine and if chocolate is what you crave, this Chocolate Mud Cake will steal your heart and taste buds.
Ultimate Chocolate Mud Cake
Ultimate Chocolate Mud Cake

Chocolate Mud Cake

Ingredients

250g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing 200g dark chocolate 1 tbsp espresso powder 100ml whole milk 250g self-raising flour 40g cocoa powder 250g caster sugar 4 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten 1 tsp vanilla extract 150ml soured cream Ganache: 150g milk chocolate 150g dark chocolate 100ml double cream 50g unsalted butter

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan140°C/gas 3. Grease and line a deep, 23cm round loose-bottomed cake tin, then set aside. Melt the chocolate, butter, espresso powder and milk in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a bowl, then add the caster sugar. Fold into the chocolate mixture along with the eggs, vanilla extract and soured cream.
  3. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with some moist crumbs sticking to it but not any raw cake batter. Set aside to cool completely in the tin.
  4. To make the ganache, melt the ingredients together, stirring occasionally, in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool. Spread evenly all over with the ganache, swirling it into attractive patterns.
We’ve decorated the cake with sugar hearts and crystallized rose petals. The ultimate romance:)
Moroccan Chicken with Dried Fruit, Mint and Pomegranate

Moroccan Chicken with Dried Fruit, Mint and Pomegranate

We have recently been asked to prepare a menu for a wedding. The couple are looking for a rustic style buffet with Mediterranean inspirations. Having agreed on a selection of tapas for appetizers we have moved on to trialling various options for main courses. We are planning on serving French and Italian stews with selection of crusty breads, but we wanted to add something slightly more exotic to the mix. I’ve been tempted for a while to try a Moroccan inspired chicken recipe I’ve seen in the BBC Good Food Magazine some time ago and this seemed like the perfect occasion. There was something about the combination of spices, fruit and vegetables in this recipe that instantly made me think that this will be a super yummy dish. And it is! So aromatic and full of flavour. We’ve done a few small amendments to the recipe and replaced the chicken breasts with chicken thighs (on the bone and with skin on) to make it more presentable. Delicious! Moroccan Chicken with Dried Fruit, Mint and Pomegranate
  • 6 chicken thighs or combination of thighs and drumsticks or whole legs
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions or  5 shallots, half roughly chopped, half sliced
  • 100g tomatoes
  • 100g ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 100g dried cherries
  • 150g dried apricots
  • Salt and pepper
For the garnish
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • zest 1 lemon
  • handful mint leaves
  • half of a pomegranate
  1.  Rub the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a casserole pan or a roasting pan on a medium to high heat, add the chicken and brown all over. Remove it from the pan and store aside. Add the sliced onions to the pan and fry until they are soft and translucent. Add the spices into the pan for the last minute of frying. In a food processor whizz together the chopped onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic into a paste (start with the onions, ginger and garlic and add the tomatoes once the rest has been whizzed). Add the paste into the pan with the onions and fry for few more minutes until soft.
  2. Return the chicken to the dish and add butternut squash, stock, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for roughly 40 mins. After that time remove a piece of chicken and check if it is cooked through. If undercooked return to the pan and cook for a bit longer. Repeat this test until chicken in cooked through and butternut squash is soft. Remove the chicken onto a plate and cover with foil. Add the cherries and apricots to the sauce, slightly increase the heat and continue cooking until the sauce thickens ( another 5- 10 minutes).   Season the sauce with salt and pepper and return the chicken back into the pan or, if serving on a platter, poor the sauce into a platter and arrange chicken on top.
  3. Scatter the dish with lemon zest, mint leaves (choose the small leaves or shred the bigger) and pomegranate seeds. The easiest way to add the pomegranate is by cutting the fruit in half, overturning over the dish and bashing the back of the fruit with wooden spoon to release the seeds.
This dish is even better when reheated the next day once the vegetables and the chicken infuse with the flavours. Goes lovely with couscous, but also with some fresh crusty bread or flatbreads.  Delicious! Anna@TheRusticCaterer    
Fotheringhay Christmas Fair

And…we’re off!

The last few weeks have exceeded our expectations on every level. The speed with which things have taken off, the amount of work required to get everything set up, the time it takes to plate up 100 portions of food, and the fact that we can still function after a 24 hour spell in the kitchen. Our catering blog has suffered profoundly from the lack of time but we have come a long way since the last update. We now have a website, business cards, leaflets and company bags 🙂 We’ve found local suppliers for eggs, honey, vegetables and meat. We’ve gathered almost all required equipment and practiced numerous new recipes. We’ve also been busy with new business. We are now the regular supplier of sweet and savory bakes for the Waterloo Farm Shop near Market Harborough where we participate in a monthly Taster event. We have catered a Ploughman’s Supper to a 100 people attending a lecture in Fotheringhay. We provided a buffet for an event of 80 guests couple of weeks ago. We took part in the Fotheringhay Christmas and Crafts Fair (and sold out of all items by lunchtime!). We are in talks about numerous future jobs including a wedding for 100 guests! We’ve had many sleepless nights, drank gallons of coffee, our kitchens often resemble a battle field. Our husbands have been living on cheese on toast and ready meals whilst we prepared yummy dishes for the orders. We’ve probably aged 10 years in those few months, but we’ve never felt better. It’s such a cliché but doing something you love really does awaken a superpower of energy and motivation. And it feels like the journey is only just starting.
Business Cards

Inspection – check, Insurance – check………

Following 3 hectic weeks I am finally sitting down to update the blog – the lack of posts guilt has been killing me! I do have a good excuse. Sue and I have been working frantically to get everything ready for the 2nd of October, our first official job. The last few weeks have been spent arranging the inspections from the council to review and approve our kitchens, sorting out specialist insurance, stocking up on produce and equipment, printing business cards and menus and other exciting stuff. Pleased to report that we’re now all sorted! Firstly the inspections. Both Sue and I have been visited by the same lady from the local council. And in both cases the inspections turned out to be much less stressful than feared. We have spoken with the council in the past, so we roughly knew what was expected from each kitchen. I was asked to seal some gaps around the worktops and tiles. Sue had to fit self-closing hinges on the downstairs bathroom’s door. We both decided to have our ovens professionally cleaned.With our kitchens thoroughly scrubbed, equipped with professional kitchen thermometers and with the contents of cupboards and fridges re-arranged to adhere to food safety standards we awaited the inspections. We both got an approval! We will still be inspected on a regular basis to ensure that we maintain the safety standards but the most important thing was that we were ok to start. Only downside is that our ovens are now so clean it’s almost a shame to use them… With the green light from the council we had to look at insurance. Our accountant has recommended a broker with expertise in specialist insurance policies. At roughly £25 per month this came slightly cheaper than we expected and we are now fully covered. We’re also in the process of opening a company bank account. We needed business cards as well. Luckily, I know a very talented graphic designer – my Mum:) Since she designed our logo and the general branding, she knew exactly how the cards should look. We used Moo.com to print them out. They are not the cheapest on the market but the quality was worth the extra £. We ordered a sample pack a few weeks before, and we fell in love with the paper and the finishing. Our cards arrived just in time – a day before the first job! It’s weird how holding that small piece of paper with your details on makes it feel so much more real. And gives you a sense of pride. So that’s it. There are no excuses. Off we go to conquer the world and taste buds. We have two jobs behind us already and so far we have loved every minute. We will let you in on all the details in the next post:)
Goat Cheese & Fig wholemeal Quiche

Olive oil vs butter in pastry – the clash of the titans!

Things are progressing at an amazing pace and as a result I’ve fallen behind in writing about them…To our great delight we have just had another job confirmed! Last week Sue and I went to see a lovely farm shop on the outskirts of Market Harbour, which she came in contact with via Twitter. They were looking for a cake supplier and we decided to pursue the opportunity. After few days of discussing the sample menu, intensive baking and a last minute panic due to a delayed delivery of cellophane and raffia packaging, we were ready. Our samples consisted of: – Wholemeal orange cake with earl grey icing – Blackberry and Apple crumble cake – Fig and Apricot firshermans cake ( this goes lovely with cheese) – Chocolate and coconut bounty mini cakes – A goat cheese, fig and caramelised onion wholemeal mini quiche – A mushroom, bacon and rocket mini quiche Sally and Kirsty, the two ladies running the shop decided to abandon their Atkins to taste the samples and we are now set for a big launch of our products in the shop sometime in October! We will be writing in more detail about our collaboration with the shop and inviting you to the big launch closer to the date:) Working on the taster menu gave me the opportunity to test two different quiche pastry recipes and I found it interesting how different they were to handle and bake. The goat cheese quiche was made using a whole meal olive oil pastry, the recipe for which I found on Cook Eat Live Vegeterian Whole meal olive oil pastry
  • 250 g wholemeal flour
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 120 ml cold water
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I used herbes the provance mix)
  • 1 tsp of salt
Heat the oven to 200C. Oil a 24cm tart tin. I find that the best way to do this is by wiping it with an oiled kitchen towel. Next dust some flour over the tin. In a bowl, mix together all dry ingredients, add the olive oil and mix well using your fingers, until they resemble little crumbs. Cool down the water by adding a few ice-cubes. Remove the ice and pour the water into the bowl with the other ingredients. Mix it in with the fork until just absorbed then knead a little just until it forms a cohesive ball (overworking will cause the party do go tough.)
Goat Cheese & Fig Quiche
Goat Cheese & Fig Quiche
Roll it out on a lightly floured surface until 2-3 mm thick. Use the rolling-pin to gently lift and unroll the pastry onto the tin. Push the pastry into the tin. Leave the excess overhanging for now, as this will prevent the pastry from shrinking. You’ll cut it off once the pastry is baked and ready. Chill the pastry in the fridge for 30 minutes. Prick the base of the tart all over with a fork. Cut a circle of baking parchment slightly wider than the base of the tart, and squash it with your hands. Unfold the paper over the tart case, fill with ceramic baking beans ( or, if you don’t have these normal dried beans or rice. Blind bake the case for about 10 minutes. Remove the paper & beans and put back in the oven for another 3 minutes. Tart case prepared in this way is ready to be filled with the filling of your choice and baked. I found the dough of this pastry very flexible and easy to handle. It didn’t tear easily or crack much in baking. That said, the finished result was slightly disappointing. Despite adding salt and herbs, the tart case was a bit bland and tasteless. The mushroom quiche was prepared using a recipe for traditional buttery base with the addition of thyme. This was  based on a Gordon Ramsey recipe. Thyme Butter Pastry
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g cold butter, diced
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves picked
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, to brush the tin
  • 1 egg yolk, to glaze
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves picked
Heat oven to 190C . Mix all dry ingredients with the butter and rub between your fingers into fine crumbs. Mix in the beaten egg and 1 tbsp ice-cold water and kneading lightly. The pastry should be moist. Wrap with cling film and chill for at least 20 mins. Oil and season a 24cm tart tin. Roll the pastry on a floured surface to 2-3mm thick. Use the rolling-pin to gently lift and unroll the pastry onto the tin. Push the pastry into the tin. Leave the excess overhanging for now.
Mushroom & Bacon Quiche
Mushroom & Bacon Quiche
Chill the tart case for at least 30 mins, ideally in the freezer. Prick the base of the tart all over with a fork and blind bake with the baking beans as in the recipe above, but for 20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and brush with the egg yolk. Return to the oven for 5 mins, brush again with the yolk and return for a final 10-15 mins until glazed and golden. The tart case is now ready to be filled. This pastry was more tricky to handle and prone to tearing. The bottom also lifted more during baking and the baked pastry was very delicate and easily breakable. However, it did taste delicious! The Verdict: The wholemeal olive oil pastry is much easier to prepare and bake. It adds a bit of unusual touch to your quiches, but I found it bland in taste. I would therefore suggest using it only with fillings that have strong flavours to balance the blandness. The buttery thyme pastry, whilst tricky to handle, is my firm winner. It doesn’t have the healthy benefits of the wholemeal, but it makes up for it in the taste. It’s delicate, crunchy, but full of salty and herby flavours. Delicious! Tomorrow is the D day – inspection from the Council to assess my kitchen! I’ll be writing a detailed report of the day, but for now wish me luck!  
Sue's Creations

Two is a Team!

I’ve gone quiet for couple of weeks, but not for the lack of things going on at the headquarters. I’ve actually been bringing to life a plan of attracting a partner in crime and I am super excited to say that I’ve succeeded! From now on the Rustic Caterer is a team of two! Sue, a fantastic baker, cake maker and all-round foodie has agreed to join me in running the catering business. Some of you had a chance to taste Sue’s creations at the various social gatherings. Her Peter Rabbit cupcake tower has a special place in the dessert history 🙂 I am therefore immensely happy that we will be able to offer her products to our customers. And it will be so much more fun doing this as a team! From now on we will both be documenting our endeavours, culinary and logistic, on this blog. In the last week or so we had a confirmation of our first 3 jobs staring from October! We will be writing about them in more detail very soon.
Peter Rabbit Cupcake Tower
Peter Rabbit Cupcake Tower
The realisation dawned on me that it’s really happening now. And there is a million and one thing to sort out before we can legally cater food. Over the coming weeks we will be registering the company, sorting out insurance, finding suppliers, printing business cards, preparing the website, working on our menu, getting hold of equipment, and most likely many, many other things that we haven’t yet thought of. Weirdly, now that everything is kicking off, I am charged with extra energy, no idea where from.   Especially since plans and whirlwind of thoughts (and often JoJo) are keeping me awake at night. Bring on October!