Just a quickie – hospital tomorrow – eating today!

The melodramatic bit.  Having had SIX months of different hospitals trying to pass me off to any other hospital because they don’t want to delve into my innards (and I actually find that quite offensive, surely my innards are cute and entertaining) I now discover I need TWO surgeons to be present and the op is tomorrow.  Two surgeons, possibly they starting from opposite ends, Euro Tunnel like, hoping to meet in the middle.  Anyway I have rather picked up on the misery and doubt the surgeons are emitting so maybe this is the last post (haha on many levels).

Ok from being an urgent surgery case in December to NHS losing my notes or not wanting to be the first ones in for 6 months I have today been told I can have my op on Thursday!  That hardly gives me the time to gather my condiments.  I was meant to be going to the opening of English Provender’s new building on Friday, they are the Emperor of Condiments and sent the best invitation ever, a jar of onion marmalade with mustard.  How sad am I that I can’t attend.  Am trying to wheedle another visit just for me.

In the meantime having been to Daniel Galmiches Ladies Lunch at the Vineyard and buying his book (thanks for inscribing “thanks for last night” mwahaha) I have decided to cook his lovely recipe on page 86 Pan Fried Chicken with Garden Vegetables and Pancetta Ragout.  I have followed it to the letter and it smells and tastes divine though am waiting for T to come back to serve it.  The only teeny changes were …….. I used organic cornfed chicken thighs instead of breasts, oh and new green garlic instead of garlic, and thyme instead of savory and organic smoked bacon instead of pancetta.  As for the broad beans, well don’t get me started, seriously!!!  I used a bag of broad beans which first I shelled then blanched then took the skins off and was left with virtually nothing,  A dozen little broad bean bits.  The leftovers could have filled a small room! Still, I did use the few precious broad beans, naked and freshly green.

This was a very tasty dish so thank you to the lovely Daniel Galmiche from the Vineyard at Stockcross.  Much appreciated.

 

IMG_1960The inscription Daniel did for me in what is a truly delightful book, there are so many things I want to try, not least he mushroom risotto which is my planned method of death, one dive into a vat of delicious loveliness and I will be in heaven.

 

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Daniel with the lovely Linda, my PA.  Then Daniel looking just a tiny bit concerned with me doing a selfie (the first one I have ever done! – I am now down with the kids).  I think you can see the whites of his eyes.

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Ha! If you want to know what these lovely dishes are check out my Instagram, leilaslocallarder – they were all superb

 

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On the left, the number of broad beans left after shucking, blanching, removing from skins of a barrel load of beans!  Frozen next time methinks.  On the right the dish after the foraged mushrooms from Chapel Row Artisan Market have been added.

 

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The finished dish, really wonderful with enough left over to make T a meal for when I am in hospital.  He has a freezer drawer packed with supplies and should the worst happen I reckon he can last at least 2 weeks before needing to get another wife.  Still, he has a great recipe book to work from, French Brasserie by Daniel Galmiche.  Yum

 

As an aside, whilst on morphine and ebay the result is ….. shoes, so here is a picture of one pair, more to follow.

 

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A tale of two Roasts: NHS v Bladebone

As many of you are aware I have been in the clutches of the NHS for the last week.  I had hoped I was popping in for the day last Monday but the doctors had other ideas.  I ended up staying for a week, desperately playing Hotspot with my phone and my Ipad.  Why oh why can’t hospitals have public wifi, it would keep a lot of us very quiet and prevent the formation of escape committees in every ward.  I was in a ward with five other women none of whom seemed to need sleep.  Actually that isn’t quite true, two were wailers, two were vommers and three had one of the above and snored.  Loudly.  Soooooo….essential to put in your bag are chargers, ear plugs and condiments.  The delightful T came in every day despite me imploring him not to bother and as he was coming in I gave him a list of condiments to bring in depending on what was on the menu.  By the end my locker was just full of mayo, tartare sauce, grindy salt and pepper, home made balsamic salad dressing, lemons and a grater and other essential items.  I am sure there must be a market for those that are rushed into hospital without time to prepare as I was.  There should be a foodie condiments basket with little portions of everything you might need including a tiny packet of cheese and biscuits, pickle, home cooked ham and heritage tomatoes, the possibilities are endless.  On my third day James, number one son, came up trumps as he brought in a Cha Han from Wagamamas with sides of gyozas.  That’s my boy.  He also bought me a lovely pair of pyjamas with pockets to hide my goodies in.  Perfect. Oh and the best watermelon I have had since Thailand.  It is worth having children.

 

I do appreciate that the NHS is run on a budget, honestly I do.  The nursing and caring staff were absolutely brilliant, working flat out under a lot of pressure. As far as the food goes it was, well there was, hmm, it was plentiful.  The first couple of days I was unable to eat but after that I could and was grateful for the quantity to a point.  However everything tasted like it had been made with the cheapest ingredients possible (fair assumption to be honest).  The first night I could eat I had tuna mac.  An interesting meal made with ‘value’ tuna, ‘value’ pasta, what looked like some left over courgettes and mushrooms squished in and all coated with a layer of ‘value’ cheese.  I use the word cheese advisably.  It was a coating of something pale and solid. It came with a ball of mashed potato that had formed its own protective shell and overcooked peas.  Do I need to use the word overcooked, let’s just make the assumption that it is in front of every noun.  Mmmm carbs and carbs with carbs.  Carby.  Actually there was one dish that wasn’t overcooked, the potatoes that came with my roast were startling in their ability to cause pain if hurled from one side of the room to the other.  There were patients that were doing that sort of thing, it was an exciting ward.

 

 

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The NHS roast.  Plentiful yes but that was possibly a drawback.  Note the lack of any vegetables except the firm potatoes.  The meat was almost certainly beef.  Of some sort.  There was a powerful gravy.

 

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Oh hello my lovely Bladebone Roast.  I hate paying for food that I can cook better myself, I truly resent every mouthful and it can seriously ruin my day.  Never a problem here at the Bladebone in Chapel Row.  Look at that perfectly cooked beef flung wantonly over the delicious vegetables, see the cheeky asparagus wedged over the crunchy (yet soft inside) roast potatoes, all perfectly sauced with a scrummy gravy.  Perfect.  I had to stop here on my way from hospital incarceration to home incarceration and it was a great call to make.  A short time of freedom which sated me in so many ways.

Inglewood, what a past, what a future

Ok chaps and chapesses, this is the long overdue post on The Walmesley Restaurant which is sneakily based at Inglewood in Kintbury.  I had no idea it was there and was absolutely delighted when Joanne, the manager of Audley Homes asked me to try out the tasting menu.  When Jo called we had a great chat, mostly about food and the deal was done.

Many years ago I won a competition and the prize was a week at Inglewood Health Hydro as it then was.  It was very luxurious and may have had something to do with the decision to then move to Newbury from Kent.  The only issue I had with it then was the food, it being a health hydro and all.  It was nice but not plentiful, a whole week of delightful little bits of food that nearly made you think you had eaten but not quite.  However I was bright enough to reccy the local M&S for their gooey chocolate fudge cake which you could get in individual slices.  Just so you know you could get about 20 to make an actual cake.  Which I did.  Inglewood has had an interesting past, it was a private home then a seminary, in fact there are some monks buried in the garden who get visits from their brothers at St Cassians round the corner.  There was a period as Inglewood Health Hydro and another period which we should probably gloss over but had something to do with saucy parties (gosh, in Kintbury!).

Inglewood looked just as it had 30 years ago (seriously, that long, how old am I?!) which was quite a feat as I later found out that the entire building had been rebuilt but the facade had remained the same according to the planning guidelines it adhered to.  Inside however was a different matter.  It had a huge entrance hall/reception with a double height ceiling supported by 4 original columns.  Spectacular.  The whole place had the air of a rather grand hotel yet it contained about 30 apartments.  We were lucky enough to be shown around one by Joanne and I have to say that if I had the money I would really like to live here.  The apartments themselves were beautiful, airy, with large rooms and ensuite bedrooms.  Also on site is a health club and spa which people can join even if they don’t live in the Village.  You can hear Jo talking about this on Kennetradio.com

Now to the food.  Gert has worked in a number of places including The Vineyard and the food was imaginative and delicious.  The fine dining restaurant is open on Friday and Saturday evenings and the Bistro is open every day.

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To start, breads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar at one end and butter at the other, so nice to have the choice.  Cold water was on the table and the service was excellent although the waiter looked a little terrified that he was serving Joanne.  I should say here that Joanne was great company and I am so pleased she agreed to eat with us.  She is very personable, keen to build bridges with the local community and network and was great fun to be with.  A bonus to the evening I think you will agree.

 

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 The very lovely Jo, an absolute star, passionate about her work and life in general

 

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Oyster beignet over chilled tomato soup – crunchy, chewy and tasting of the sea tempered by the cool fresh tomato of the soup.  Chilled soup is one of those things that I rarely think to order and the first spoonful is always a bit of a surprise but I think the same could be said for oysters so what a great match.

 

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Poached quail with potato gnocchi, carrot and star anise broth – very juicy, loved the gnocchi and could have had more of that.  The broth was great, unusual with the star anise which came through strongly but it really worked well.

 

 

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Salmon and tiger prawn lasagne, spring peas, champagne and caviar sauce – oh oh how scrummy was this, the seafood was cooked to perfection, tender and flavourful and the sauce was a plate licker.

 

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Slow cook cannon of lamb, crispy lamb fillet, pressed belly, aubergine, broad beans and lamb jus – I loved this dish, I like lamb anyway and to have it done in so many ways was a treat.  The belly was slowcooked then pressed and cut into a cube, you can see it hiding near the tomato.  The lamb wrapped in crispy potato was something that I had never had but am now going to research, it was delicious with the soft lamb encased in a crunchy potato overcoat.  Beautifully presented.

 

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 Orange salad with blood orange sorbet and dark chocolate mousse – this didn’t seem to be on the menu but Gert had decided to add it, possibly to see how far he could stretch our already groaning stomachs.  I love the fact that the base was an orange salad, how healthy is that?  This was of course countered by the extremely rich dark chocolate mousse that sat on top of the blood orange sorbet.

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Banana soufflé, caramelized banana and rum and raisin ice cream – ok I have to admit that at this point I had hardly a spare millimetre so passed some to the very obliging T to have a go at.  The banana soufflé was light but still substantial, the ice-cream was delicious and I loved the caramelised banana.  At this point Joanne was very kind in pretending not to see the soufflé I had flicked onto the tablecloth, I think by this time we were discussing the merits of different sugars and she was telling me about Steria.  I did say that she was a great dining companion, full of interesting information and conversation.

 

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I rallied round a bit for the petit fours that were served in the library.  My favourite were ….. no I can’t say as they were all delicious.  The macorons were delicious and chocolatey, the little doughnut was incredible because it was actually made from choux pastry and was light and chewy with jam in the middle.  The truffles just oozed very well bred chocolate.  A perfect end.

I would highly recommend this restaurant and am looking forward to trying the Bistro.  This is fine dining at a competitive price.  The Walmesley also offers afternoon tea (with or without champagne) and monthly masterclasses.  Do visit, you will be glad you did.

An interview with both Joanne and Gert will be on Kennetradio.com and below are a few pics of the apartment.

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Bristol, new find (for me!) Bell’s Diner

 

A couple of nights ago I had a delightful dinner at the Hotel Du Vin with colleagues from a marvellous charity, The Brandon Trust.  The dinner and the company were lovely, as was the hotel, definitely one to return to.  The following day, after working fairly hard (for me) I was able to visit my lovely daughter Rachel to persuade her to come and eat somewhere.  Like me she suffers terribly from restaurant envy, food envy and plate envy.  This is a terrible affliction that starts the minute someone suggests eating.  First of all we have to weigh up what the choices are, which eaterie is best and that requires a lot of time comparing menus, weighing up food options and chucking ambience and price into the mix.  Do we go somewhere that we know is good, do we try somewhere new and risk it, small and quirky may end up as badly cooked pub grub and that is a whole opportunity wasted.  This could ruin our day or even longer.

 

Bristol is absolutely heaving with great places to eat and hopefully Rachel will start blogging about them herself but until then I will share my eating experiences with you myself.  We picked Bell’s Diner & Bar Rooms.  This is set in a strange bit of a strange and vibrant city.  It reminded me a bit of a mixture between Brebis and the Wellington Arms, picked up and put into a street heavily daubed with colourful graffiti and dodgy looking shops.  Outside some yoof with dreadlocks (I actually felt out of place as one of the few without dreadlocks) were selling what looked like the contents of their wardrobe on the pavement outside a Video (!) shop.

 

Inside was a different matter, this is what reminded me of the Wellington Arms and Brebis, it was all clean but scuffed in a friendly warm used and loved way.  There were eggs and other items for sale, the water came from a tap in the middle of the wall and there was a bread board with a range of delicious breads that were used to replenish our basket when needed.  This was several times because the juice (or jus if you are posher) of some of the dishes had to be mopped up and it never looks good if you lick the plate in public.

 

I have no history of Bristol and know little of the restaurant scene there.  It would seem that the owners had been there for a year but it had been a restaurant since the 70′s in different transformations.  I certainly hope they are content with this transformation as I would hate to see it change too much.  We had a selection of small plates prepared by Sam Sohn-Rethel, the very talented chef.  Rachel ordered a white Negroni which arrived disguised as a red one.  Lucky mistake because she got to keep both the original and the replacement.

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2014-06-05 12.49.38Records which were playing on what looked like a Dansette, the music was great, Santana, Steely Dan sort of stuff, the records were also for sale.

2014-06-05 12.53.27The menu

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 Nice touches like the milk bottle which was filled by a random tap coming out of the middle of the wall in the restaurant

2014-06-05 13.04.35Duck liver pate with red grape mustard, I have never eaten this red grape concoction before but it was yummy, went perfectly with the richness of the pate and was a beautiful rich red colour

2014-06-05 13.08.05Charcoal grilled salt and pepper prawns, so fresh the skins slid off with the first lot of juice that had to bed mopped up.  Pat and I sucked the brains out of the prawns but Rachel wussed out

2014-06-05 13.08.09Whoop whoop, this was amazing.  Charcoal grilled chicken oyster pincho marinated in chipotle with harissa yoghourt.  This tasted of the Mediterranean, everything about it was just SO right.  Using the oysters was genius, they are the part of the chicken that no one tells you about because if you know about them you will eat them.  Only problem with this is that there wasn’t more of it.  Seriously good

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 Charcoal grilled chorizo and morcilla (a Spanish black pudding).  Rachel is an earnest chorizo snuffler and told me it was excellent.

2014-06-05 13.10.50Roasted Cornish scallops with samphire, potted shrimps and lemon.  Perfectly cooked scallops with a crust on the outside and very lightly cooked in the middle.  The potted shrimps added another dimension to the sea taste of each mouthful

2014-06-05 13.15.24Oh my, another dish I wanted more of, the best cooked lamb chops I have had for a very long time, slightly charred but just pink enough inside with a stunning burnt lemon to squeeze over (and add to the mopping up queue)

2014-06-05 13.19.39A last minute decision and a good one, pork and saffron albondigas (meatballs) with tomato and char-grilled pepper sauce.  This tasted so wonderful, each flavour stood out but worked well with its fellow taste

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Rachel thought this tasted of me, not quite sure why, maybe she can explain it.  To me it was comfort food to the max.  I love lamb and could just carry a flask of this around for ever.  It is spring lamb, potatoes and peas cooked in yoghurt with mint and chilli butter.  You couldn’t taste the chilli as a big bite, in fact the yoghurt wasn’t sharp or jarring either, it all just melded into each other in a delicious and comforting way.  Perfection.

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Rachel and Pat had four ice creams between them so back left is mango and passion-fruit, back right is tonka bean, front left is mint choc chip and front right is (genius flavour) toasted marshmallow.  All were fab.

 

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Pat standing in front of some of the items for sale (like the Wellington Arms in Baughurst, recently mentioned in Food and Travel Magazine)

I paid for this meal, enjoyed it very much and wonder if they could possibly open a branch in West Berkshire

Artisan Market – Chapel Row – get there early!

Who likes good food?  Well I do as you know.  This blog is about good food and places that you can get it.  We are so blessed in West Berkshire, we have so many good pubs, restaurants and farmers markets.  This post is about a new market that I went to recently.  It is held on the First Saturday of each month and is at Chapel Row, Bucklebury.  Those delightful readers who have been following my blog will know that I have a fondness for Chapel Row, it doesn’t have many shops but the three that they do have are amazing.  L’Interiors is one of those shops that, when I enter, make me want to buy every single thing there.  Lynda Tillotson, the owner has amazing taste and I could end up hugely poorer if I visited too often.  If you want your home designed to perfection by a friendly but knowledgeable designer head to her shop.

 

The second shop in the Golden Triangle of Chapel Row is the Blackbird Cafe.  Avoid this if you are on a strict diet.  You will see pictured below the huge pillow of meringue slathered in thick cream and showered with beautiful red fruits.  It was there until I arrived :-).  They also sell coffee beans, coffee and tea to have there or take away and a super selection of bread from Borough Market.  I am not going to list the selection of amazing cakes for two reasons, one, my fingers can only do so much typing and two, you need to go there to find out for yourself.

 

The third part of this Golden Triangle is, of course, the Bladebone Pub that sells the best food around.  Feel free to look at the million posts I have done on their food and the very talented Kiren Puri (pictured with the fish below)

 

Kirens pub was playing a different role when I visited last.  The Artisan Market is held in it’s grounds on the first Saturday of every month from 10am and you need to get there early.  It was a lovely day and the market was heaving.  The stalls all contained local produce, wild garlic, apple juice, cheeses, sausages (who knew that the butchers Cook & Butcher in Thatcham delivered).  There was also food to taste from a local caterer which was delicious.  I ended up leaving with carrier bags full of food.  Amongst my favourites were the wild garlic pesto, the dried local mushrooms and the cep salt, the honesty box in front of the punnets of wild mushrooms (why didn’t I get more?) and the fish.  I left with a bag of scallops and mussels but there was a great range of fresh fish.  They have some of everything here, cup cakes, meringues and cookies, bread (which must be good as it had sold out!) and sausages with Marmite.

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IMG_1726Matthews Catering, note his blatant use of his son as an advertisement, his food tasted great.

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The cheeses and wild garlic pesto.  This added a huge zing to my cooking over the next week.  Also note the delectable Lynda Tillotson on the right at Blackberry Cottage.  They make cakes out of vegetables, a great way to get you (and your family) to get their five a day without realising!

 

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Blackberry Cottage, cider and Kiren Puri of the Bladebone with his fresh fish.

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The lovely ladies from the Blackbird Cafe next door, see that pavlova, well you wouldn’t have when I left!

 

Such fun and so much local deliciousness.  Be there, first Saturday of every month but do NOT buy up everything as we all want the lovely local produce.

 

Finally a picture of some of us at Smeaster (like Easter but a week after).  My oldest son James is on the left, my stepson Sam is the rabbit, I am the kangaroo, then Noah, a grandson is, hmmm, maybe a bear, another grandson Dan is a dragon and my ex husbands daughter Hope is hmm maybe another rabbit.

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Next big review is the Walmesley Restaurant tasting menu, coming soon, hopefully when I have a new front tooth.  Sigh (the tooth not the tasting menu)

 

 

 

 

Eateries I praise and love

Coming up in about 20 minutes on 87.7 or http://kennetradio.com/site/show/weekend-woman/ Kennet Radio.  Praise of The Vineyard, The Bladebone, Chapel Row Market and Brebis.  We had such fun recording, the bits you don’t get to hear are even better!!  Oh my, forgot to say I also go on about the lovely meat from Two Cocks.  Oh and the Artisan Market at Chapel Row