Cooking, teaching and having fun…….

I have the pleasure of being a tutor at the WI Cookery School, Denman College based at Marcham near Abingdon. I really enjoy the environment there and when working with the students on the course I get a real thrill from their questions, enthusiasm and the food they produce.

Recently I taught my Pies, Pates and Terrines course. I designed the course initially as a one day course but this one has been stretched to a three day course. A request from a member of the WI for the course to include a pork pie recipe was made earlier in the year and I re-designed the course including the traditional pork pie and new sweet recipes!

The fun of these courses is working with students who have a wide range of experience and knowledge, the enthusiasm to learn and try something different.

Traditional Pork Pie

The resulting pork pie demonstrated as part of the course.

The course is designed to simplify the process of making pastry, terrines and pates. The difference between pastries, such as sweet, shortcrust, strong, hot etc and how they can be used are clearly demonstrated.

As for pates – by working with very simple ingredients such as smoked salmon and cream cheese using a simple method, combining these fresh tasting delicious ingredients you can make a beautiful pate. The process can be applied to any fresh ingredients to make your own favourite pate. This builds confidence and moving onto more complex recipes is not so daunting.

It is the same with the Pie recipes, but I added some sweet pies to the course including my signature Normandy Apple Tarts and a fabulous Chocolate Tort made with chocolate and coconut milk. It is simple and a bonus is that it suits any one with a vegetarian or vegan diet.

The terrine is a Celebration Terrine made with minced chicken, minced pork and duck breast, studded with green pistachios and red cranberries. All wrapped in pancetta. A colourful starter for a celebration dinner! Again the process is the same for any terrine and one you have the process you can gain confidence to try more complex terrines such as a Game Terrine.

The Pork Pie is made using fresh quality meat: pork mince, diced shoulder, bacon, hock and belly. Boil the hock, I use smoked as it gives a deep flavour to the jelly, an essential in any pork pie. Diced the cooled ham hock and the rest of the meat, mix in a bowl and spice with nutmeg and  or mace, herbs include thyme and rosemary if you like both. Season it all.

Then the hot water crust pastry. This is a great pastry to work with and whilst you need to be speedy, don’t panic. Melt the lard, water together in a pan, get is boiling gently but be careful of any spitting that will happen as you pour the liquid into the sifted flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.

Having previously lined the base of a spring form tin with baking paper and greased the base and sides with lard. Take approximately 3/4 of the pastry, bringing it together in a ball and drop it into the tin. Spread the pastry across the base evenly and pull the pastry up the sides of the tin. Ideally you want to get to the point where you have a small overlap of pasty hanging over the lip of the tin. Fill with the meat mixture. Then put a pice of cling-film on the worktop. Put the remaining pastry in the middle. Cover with a second sheet of cling-film and roll the pastry so that you have a disc just larger than the top of the pie. Pull off the top piece of cling-film and using your hand under the sheet and lifting the cling-film up over the pie you can line it up and drop the top onto the top of the pie. Seal the pastry together and make a hole in the centre of the top. Decorate if you like and brush with a beaten egg. Cook for about an hour at 180C Fan. The top of the pie will give you a great indication if it is cooked as it should be golden brown. If in doubt use a thermometer to check the meat is at 75C or more.

When ready let is cool a bit before taking off the side of the tin. Do this by placing it on top of an upturned jug. Ensure that it fits within the circle of the tin. Release the side of the tin carefully. If there are any areas sticking use a sharp thin bladed knife to loosen being careful to keep the side of the tin in place. When released you can brush the side of the pie with the rest of the egg wash and pop back in the oven for a further 10 minutes. Remove and leave to cool, chill in the fridge overnight.

To make the jelly the stock from the ham hock make have enough gelatin in it to stiffen but if not use a few sheets of gelatin leaves, soaking them in water for 20 minutes than adding them to the stock. Warm gently and stir to ensure the mixture is fully mixed.You can test the jellification state by putting a plate in the freezer for 10 minutes then dripping a little of the stock on the plate if it turns to a jelly you are ok. Otherwise add some more gelatin and repeat the process.

Next day you can pour the jelly in liquid state into the hole on the top of the pie. You may need to make a few small holes with a skewer around the edges of the top of the pie. This helps the air to escape and make space for the jelly as it is poured in.

Any questions please let me know.




Wonderful food from around the world, where?

Wonderful food from around the world, all to be found at the recent Wallingford Food Festival!

The festival celebrates all that is local from meat, cheeses, bread, vegetables, beers, ciders, coffee and much more. The best way to demonstrate what you can do with wonderful local produce is have great chefs demonstrate their passion for cooking with great ingredients and talents to inspire you try yourself!

This years (2014) festival was a wonderful celebration of food and drink all produced and available within 30 miles of Wallingford. The four annual festival welcomed over 55 producers and in two days nearly 5000 visitors. The weather was fabulous as was the atmosphere, boosted by the music from the Missing Persians and the Occasional Orchestra!

The chefs lined up to demonstrate how to take wonderful ingredients and through their individual alchemy talents create extraordinary dishes for the receptive and appreciative audiences. Food from Brazil, Japan, Italy, Germany and the UK. What a celebration of local food and international cooking styles.

Below is a selection of pictures from this years demonstrations – all suberbly managed and hosted by Jo Thoenes from BFBS Brize Norton.

Watch out for the dates for 2015 festival and details of what is going on at, sign up for the email newsletter. You can follow the festival on Twitter @wallingfoodfest plus Facebook at .



Making it happen…….

Whilst I have a moment of peace in the midst of a number of important projects I am involved with I thought now was a time to reflect on 2013 so far. Its been a bit of a roller-coaster (trying to avoid the word “journey” – ooops!) ride.

The year started with an event for 80 people on the 5th of January. The events I have catered for since then have involved businesses and private events from 40th birthdays, to 80th birthdays and many more. It has been fun planning the menus, working with the clients and getting great feedback from all of these clients.

I have also embarked on a teaching career at the WI Cookery School, with a session coming up on the 30th August which I am looking forward to. Along with this the regular broadcasting slot on BBC Radio Oxford is still keeping me busy as well as the writing for HC/OX and Pick Magazines. This writing thing is a lovely challenge and one that I enjoy doing battle with.

My other major project – Wallingford Food Festival – had its third outing this year and was bigger and better again. Spread over two days it had good weather (again!), loyal and great sponsors, plus over 45 producers selling beers, wines, coffee, bread, cheese, chillies, oils, vinegars, Brazilian, Spanish, German, French, Italian food, meats, cakes, jams and so much more. Just proving that we have a lot to be thankful about here in Oxfordshire with the wide range of food and drink producers established in the county. I am looking forward to next years festival – for which the dates will be announced soon. Look out for the news on 

Wonderful Audiences!

Wonderful Audiences!


Great Demos!

Great Demos!


Great Food!

Great Food!

Alongside all of this I am working on two new projects which will hopefully keep me very busy for the rest of the year. The first  is a new website for local food and drink producers. I hope that we will see this go live in the next 3-4 months. The other project is a new wine bar opening in the Castle in central Oxford. I am proud to be asked to be involved in this and provide a large part of the menu that will be on offer with the fabulous wines selected by Alistair Cooper, my wine expert partner on the BBC radio spot. I will keep you posted on developments of both these projects and hopefully you will be able to participate in one or both of them yourselves!

On reflection, I have thoroughly enjoyed this year so far. I have been lucky with the people I have met and worked with. I have had some interesting obstacles thrown in the path of some of these projects but nothing has dented my enthusiasm in getting the job done. So to everyone who has been involved with me, helped me and supported me can I say thank you! To my clients and customers I would also like to say thank you because without your support I could not do what I do, and continue to enjoy doing it with a passion. Here is to the rest of 2013 and beyond!