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.




Sardinia – a brief encounter!

The packing was left till the last-minute and then the small matter of the Italian air traffic control holding a four-hour strike. This meant we arrived at our destination around six in the evening,  losing the opportunity to explore our hotel and the surrounding area in the afternoon, however, we discovered more about the area later.

The Cala Ginepro Hotel serves traditional Sardinian food with familiar ingredients. The fun part about the evening meal is that it is four courses with minimal time between them! After a days travel the prospect of food was the only thing sustaining us. This rapid fire of the courses kept us amused all week.

No matter, a long day of travel ended in fine form with a rapid four-course meal and some reviving cold local beer and white wine. A surprisingly traditional prawn cocktail followed by a fish risotto and then a delicious dish of freshly deep-fried fish and vegetables coated in a perfectly seasoned light breaded batter with huge quarters of limes and lemons. We declined the selection of desserts. Lots of fresh fabulous fish – great start to the holiday!

The following morning we ventured into the village, stumbling upon the preparations for a wedding reception in the larger hotel in the resort. The reception room was beautifully decorated and the tables were lovingly prepared with a vine leaf wrapped flower display. The cake table was waiting for the centerpiece but it looked amazing with some simple and smaller cakes artistically decorated. For the younger guests a table of sweets was set out. Large glass jars filled with handmade sweets and chocolate covered almonds, raisins and much more. Alongside the jars were small white muslin bags with different coloured tapes to tie the contents in securely. The children at the celebration would be lured to that table all evening.

The traditional dishes of lamb, goat and pork were served daily according to the hotel information. We were treated to lamb on the bone with mint and a white wine sauce. Beef olives but with little sauce, lots of seafood risotto and a sumptuous selection of salad leaves and pulses to make our own salads.

A day out was required and we chose Orosei. It was hot, fascinating and fun. Taking the bus south on the SS125 and cresting a hill the bay of Orosei was laid out beneath us. The farmland was being irrigated and the sea was a shimmering blue carpet away to the left. On arriving in the Piazza du Popolo it was time for a coffee in a perfect little café and bar. Then off explore the town. The walk consisted of a four-mile tour around the town, including exploring the prison, churches and museum. Finally, a long hike out to the sea. Orosei has a lovely beach with some beautiful nature reserves behind the golden sand. You can, if prepared with the right equipment watch eagles, kingfishers and flamingoes in the lagoons. It was enough to spend a bit of time on the beach and then walk back to get a late lunch at Bar Manu.

Starting with delicious music paper bread and a bowl of amandine clams, mussels and spaghetti in a light olive oil and parsley dressing, accompanied with a platter antipasto of squid, swordfish, sea bass in olive oil and orange dressing. Sampling the local beer, which is great, and the fabulous Torbato Prosecco from the Sella & Mosca vineyard near Sassari on the west coast of Sardinia. This became the favourite drink before eating. What a great way to relax and divine way to end the day in Orosei!

Our beach is organised and has the obligatory rows of brollies and loungers. The sand is grey and coarse but the sun was a delight. A day of soaking up the UV interspersed with cups of cappuccino and then a tasty Panini for lunch. The bread itself was the size of a side plate in diameter and it had the best crust with soft fluffy inside cradling the salami, cheese and tomato. Ideal beach food!

Exploring further afield the harbour town of La Caletta caught the imagination.

Using the local bus, which is cheap, regular if off timetable at times, we left mid morning. Passing through the beautiful village of Santa Lucia we arrived in La Caletta. A short walk taking in the sights of the centre of the town, then on to the harbour and the goal of a coffee was achieved! The coffee never fails in these cafes and bars. They are made with care and are beautifully aromatic, smooth and full of flavour.

The weather was not the best so we explored the long expansive beach but decided to look for a place to have a leisurely lunch. Second goal achieved when we found the beachfront restaurant of Meloni and Fresu.


Squid starter

Squid Salad – no shortage of squid –  delicious!

Octopus Carpaccio

Octopus Carpaccio – stunning looks pepped up by the fresh basil and lemon juice, amazing!


Main Course.

Borgata Spaghetti

Borgata Spaghetti – Borgata is dried fish roe the ground and sprinkling on the pasta. Strong intense flavour complemented by the fresh tasting olive oil.

Pecorrino Cheese Ravioli in tomato sauce

Pecorino Cheese Ravioli in tomato sauce – fresh tomato sauce with depth of flavour so good












Seadas – a traditional Sardinian dessert combines Italian simplicity of ingredients with ingenuity. Pasta, cheese and honey! Simples….

The next day we decided to look in the area surrounding Cala Ginepro. What a treat! On one post breakfast perambulation we passed the Relax restaurant. Mental note made to try for lunch later that day. Continuing the walk we went in a circle and found a pine tree covered sea front with a long expansive beach. It was nearly 11am and the beach was littered with a few relaxing sun worshippers. Lovely!

The Relax, is aptly named, just a few hundred yards from the hotel. A real find with local Sardinian dishes, freshly cooked ingredients with taste and simplicity. Its owner had worked in Edinburgh and his english was great. It transpires that “local” food is a big thing in Sardinia. The restaurant aims to source locally for everything. Blessed with fresh seafood is a huge plus, then with the pasta, vegetables and meats (fresh & cured) there is a lot going for the chefs in Sardinia. His treat was to offer us a glass or two of Torbato Prosecco.

Islands fabulous sparkling Prosecco. Delicious!

Islands fabulous sparkling Prosecco. Delicious!

Once found you have to test it out so we had lunch there two days running. Day one consisted of local cured meats plate with a chunk of pecorino and some green olives. A simple dish full of different flavours and textures like the meat platters that are served at 1855 Wine Bar & Bistro in Oxford.

Then followed two fabulous pasta dishes, the first, a traditional mixture of potato and pecorino wrapped with a pasta coat covered in a fresh tomato sauce. The other dish was the Sardinian pasta with clams and chunks of tuna with the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Wonderful! Several drinks later, feeling more relaxed we found the beach!

The following day we went back for lunch to the Relax. This time we had a platter of Frutti Misto.

Frutti Misto

Frutti Misto

Superbly fried fresh squid, prawns, and tuna in a light crisp batter. Seasoned to perfection, served with a salad. Perfecto!

The music sheet bread that comes with every meal is subtly seasoned and designed to tickle your taste buds. It can be seen on the right of the seafood platter. It is wonderfully simple!

We discovered that our hotel had a 5-hectare garden where they grew a wide range of the salads and vegetables used in the kitchens. So we took time to have a look at the work and produce they get from the garden. After a quick walk around the hotel we found the garden and the first impression is a well organised and managed area using olive trees to delineate areas and crops. The olive trees provide a huge crop of olives with which they make their own olive oil, which we had been using every evening.

As you can see from the pictures below the garden is beautiful. The irrigation system is well-managed and the gardens keep up a continuous supply of succulent lettuces, pepper, cucumbers, aubergines, basil, parley, celery and much more. The salad we can vouch for as that was a delicious and essential part of the evening meal.

The Cala Ginepro Resort Gardens.








Fig tree

Fig tree








Some thoughts on Sardinia.

We stayed at the Cala Ginepro Hotel. The room was fabulous and the facilities, pools, bar and restaurant are excellent.

Sardinia is approximately the same area as Wales, which means that there is a lot of island to see. What we saw and experienced was wonderful and the temperature in September through to October is about perfect. The sea temperature is also perfect. Away from the hotel beaches you will find many lovely beaches and coves. Perfect for a quiet day on the beach.


Beach - almost deserted

Beach – almost deserted away from the resort outpost

Oh – if you are wondering the significance of the four heads on the Sardinian flag, we asked a local. The four heads represent the heads of four Moors found on the battlefield at Alcoraz in 1096. It was said that St George appeared and aided King Peter I of Aragon to victory, hence the St Georges flag and the four heads .

Here is a list of places we stayed, visited and ate. There is more to see so we plan to go back!

Cala Ginepro Hotels and Resort

Relax Restaurant – Ginepro

Bar Manu – Orosei

Meloni & Fresu – La Caletta

Highly recommend Sardinia for the sun, sand, sea, food, drink and activities. Lots to do and enjoy! The impression is that the British have not found Sardinia yet, they are more geared up for the Italians, Germans and French. It is unspoilt and waiting to be discovered – put Sardinia on your list of places to visit.

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 .



Why I love being a chef……..

This weekend I produced canapes and a three course meal for a client celebrating a significant birthday. Working with my wine expert partner, Alistair Cooper, the evening had everything. A tour around the world in the selection of the wines and a varied menu which I think also reflected the experience and range of the 10 guests also celebrating with the host.

It was a fabulous experience for me, with the challenge of cooking in a totally unfamiliar kitchen and work space, it meant that the whole evening was spontaneous. Alistair talked about the wines, why he selected them based on the menu and the client’s travels around the world. The guests, all great foodies, and experts enjoyed the scene setting before each course, with a little bit of explanation of some of the dishes as required. The enthusiasm for the wine and food was visible, with the result that there was little wasted. I have not seen plates that devoid of leftovers in a long time!

Here is the menu with the wine choices below each course.


Chicken Galatine

Smoked Trout and Horseradish Cream on Dill Scones

Jansz Sparkling Vintage 2006



Smoked Chicken and Cream Cheese Verrine

Three Peppers and Feta Wrapped in a Grilled Courgette

Loimer Gruner Veltliner 2012, Austria
McWilliams Lovedale Semillon, 2005, Hunter Valley, Australia 


Halibut Steak with a Caribbean Salsa

Mint crusted Rack of Lamb


Salad of Seasonal Leaves

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Peas and Pancetta with Onion and Garlic

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, NZ
Lammershoek Cellarfoot Underwater Syrah 2011, Swartland, South Africa
Penfolds Grange 1991, South Australia


Limoncello Crème Brulee with Hazelnut Crisp

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream

Pellegrino Passito di Pantelleria 2009, Sicily

 A few pictures here as well to give a little sample of the flavour of the food and wine served.

Lemoncello Creme Brulee

Lemoncello Creme Brulee

Minted Rack of Lamb

Minted Rack of Lamb

Wines for Client Dinner

Wines for Client Dinner

The evening was so much fun and our client had a great time which is the result that Alistair and I were aiming for. The chance to cook and provide both wine and food freshly cooked worked extremely well. We both enjoyed the experience, as much as we hope our clients did.

These evenings are why I really enjoy my job and passion, seeing the two most important elements come together in a way that is appreciated and enjoyed makes the effort, hard work totally worthwhile. A big thank  to our client for giving us the opportunity to be part of the celebrations and contributing to what was a special evening!.

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!