Ben ‘off to uni’ Ferguson, a recipe for risotto :-)


Ok Benjamino!  You are off to uni in September and are, very wisely, asking about cooking.  We have done the mass stew and spag bol learnathon and you know to get meat that works hard as it is cheaper and tastier slow cooked.  It releases all those lovely juices that make the food so tasty and even tastier left a day.  Perfect for a busy student!


Today we are doing chicken risotto.  There are loads of steps you can leave out.  I will tell you as I go.



 These are shallots which are milder than onions but you can just use any old onion.  Chop up a clove of garlic as well.  Chuck them in a pan with a tiny bit of oil and fry them slowly, you dont want the garlic to burn, until they start to go see through.



A load of mushrooms, there a about five varieties there but you can use a job lot from the market of whatever mushrooms they have, just make sure they aren’t slimy and old.




OH Ben, this is your worst nightmare.  This is the 100 year old stock.  Ok not quite but it is pretty old, it has a mother of antiquity but always boil it and freeze it.  Keep all your chicken bones if they are free range and lovely, then you chuck it in a pot with veg and simmer for a good while.  Or use a stock cube.



Fry some smoked bacon chopped into little bits.  You can use pancetta if you are flush although I suspect you never will be.  The longer bits in there are the bacon rinds that I have cut off to make little scratchings as a snack.  You don’t have to do that.  Add the risotto rice and gently fry it for a couple of minutes, let the grains all get covered in a tiny bit of oil.



You chuck in the boiling stock a bit at a time and stir it.  There are lots of lessons here, some people say that you have to stir continuously but you don’t although you do have to keep checking and stirring.  When it is nearly done throw some cooked chicken in, leftovers from a roast will be perfect.  When it was cooked, the rice was mostly soft with just a bit of a bite and there was some oojy sauce surrounding the rice then I chucked in some spinach.  You don’t have to do this, don’t be alarmed about how much spinach there seems to be as it shrinks to nothing if you cover the pan and let the spinach steam.


At the very end I chucked some cheese on top, a bit of mascarpone and some cheddar I had knocking about in the fridge.  You don’t have to add either or you could put on some Parmesan if you have it.  Word of advice.  Never buy ready grated Parmesan as it smells of old feet (or your feet!).  Buy it in chunks and grate it when you need it.



Finally, it is nice with a bit of salad, I know you don’t like green stuff so note that this is mostly red.  Also note that I am using the tomberries we bought last week.  Fresh herbs and a bit of chopped red onion are nice on top along with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar just before you eat it.



AS you know presentation isn’t my forte but above is the finished dish.  Enjoy,   You can do this with any left over meat or sausages or no meat at all.


 Our new dishwasher accessory.



An Old Friend revisited – White Hart

I was released temporarily last week and was trying to go past The White Hart in Hampstead Norreys but was unable to.  A weird magnetic force of remembered tastiness propelled me in to the delish food pub for an early lunch.  Because this visit was a bit sudden and impulsive I forgot to pick up a menu to prompt my memory so you will sadly have to rely on my impoverished brain cells for this review.


It was lovely to be back and to see people there that I had recommended, this blog apparently has some following which is lovely, hello everyone, *friendly wave*.  In fact the last 3 places I have visited I have met people who are there because of my recommendations,  Wahoo.


Sadly Darren, the talented and innovative chef, wasnt there but he had obviously left the place in able hands because the food was all excellent.  Tony had mushrooms which tasted lovely (thanks my very patient dining partner) and I had smoked salmon which was beautifully presented but needed bread to accompany it (in my humble opinion).  I asked for bread and when it eventually came it was delicious, warm and crusty and almost a course in iteself, but it did take a while to appear.


For a main course Tony had fresh mackerel, fresh fish is something this pub excels in and I am desperate to try a Tuesday Shells night, it looks amazing.  I had haddock and chips with homemade yummy tartare sauce.


Tony had a variety of icecreams for pudding which he loved.


My only gripe would be that we were put so close to the kitchen door that I ended up holding it open for the servers, not by choice but by instinct.  We had a huge table placed next to us, who were delightful, I am not complaining about them, but we were shuffled even closer to the kitchen door which wasnt a great place to be.  The staff were lovely and not too intrusive and I would definitely return, hopefully for the Shells night, but would ask for better seating.




 Tony’s mushrooms, tasted great and wish I could remember more details!


Beautiful smoked salmon, what a treat for the eyes and palate, just needed some bread



 Tony s mackerel, perfectly cooked with a choice of butters


  Fish and chips with scallops and garlic prawns (bought later)

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 Ziggy, the dog we rescued from the Dogs Trust, with abnormally large ears and an ….


 abnormally large tongue!!

Just a quickie ooh err Missus


Bladebone Chapel Row – I was taken there on lunch release by my lovely sister Beth and her New Zealand hubby Murray (I only mention his nationality because they had a lush cider made in New Zealand which was a refreshing drink at lunchtime).


My first serious incident of plate envy.  Lobster, wild rice and lovage salad.  It was delicious but sadly not mine, it was Beths.


Not on the menu but I asked Kiren to make me something with salmon and I got this little delight, hot salmon and beetroots and horseradish.  Scrummy.


Murrays salt and pepper squid with chilli jam and coriander.  Really well cooked, tender with a kick.


Beth’s crab, on my recommendation because although I don’t really like crab Tony had it here and it was the best crab he had ever had!


I am having to rely on my memory now which is probably going to be a disaster as my brain is not the most effective part of my body.  Cod with cockles and potatoes and oyster leaves, a great combination.


My lamb, no plate envy here, mine was tender and juicy and full of lambiness.






Puddings, pannacotta, eton mess and some brownie affair. Very pretty.

IMG_2061 Beth strangling Murray in a loving manner.

The Golden Triangle of Chapel Row

Oh I am such a lucky bunny.  I live in the best place, so near to town yet close to country.  Near civilisation but not close enough to impact on the residents of our house in any way.  Really close to The Golden Triangle.  I have written about the delightful Chapel Row before but, as I have recently escaped the house for an hour to go to the Artisan Market, I am going to write about it again.  Not least because it is just the best place to drop relatively large amounts of money in a very short space of time on fantastic local products.  In fact the only downside is that we cant get any sort of take away or delivery of food but there are super places to go to instead.

Market items

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 Smoked bacon and rocket quiche

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 Beautiful saffron gold mushrooms

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 Stunningly fresh crab, prawns and huge sweet scallops (or as I call it, tea)

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Home grown vegetables.  If only I had known how many broad beans would actually have resulted from this bag I would have bought the entire stock.



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Oooh, cep salt and coconut coated marshmallows




 Chilli oils, mustards and the mushroom salt


 Lots of different marshmallows


The Blackbird Cafe, source of much deliciousness.  Go for morning coffee, afternoon tea, bread and cakes of the like never before seen in Chapel Row.  This was my first and only port of call when I was told I had to go straight into hospital.



Lemon Meringue cake.  Words cannot do this justice.  Drooooooool.


Earl Grey tea cake.  Fabulous to look at and just as good to eat.

L Tillotson Interiors.  A shop jam packed with wondrous items of beauty (not least the lovely Linda herself).  Rachel Lawrence, see the sparkly bag, how cool is that?  The throws are so soft and snuggy and the belts are brilliant, I have one myself.




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The Artisan Market is held on the first Saturday of every month and is well worth a visit.  Unfortunately the next one clashes with our Westie Walk but I am wondering if I can do a very fleeting visit, it is so worth it.  You can have breakfast at the Bladebone, go for a coffee and cake at the Blackbird Cafe then shop for things of beauty at LTillotson Interiors – perfect.



Westie Walk (other dogs welcome) Greenham Control Tower 11 am 2nd August


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.



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.


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.



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.









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.




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.



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

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 and below are a few pics of the apartment.

 frontApart 21 kitchenApart 19 front room