Saturday, 27 November 2010

Dinner at Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons

On Monday November 22nd Chris and I celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary. This is no mean feat given that my parents thought we'd be lucky to make it through the first year.
I started suggesting a meal at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir at least 6 months ago. My children finally caved in, booked it up and gave us £200 towards it and the promise of a driver for the night!
I hope you can see from the pictures how special it all is. My main course of Brill in a wasabi sauce (and much more) was just beautiful, as was the Cornish lobster I had to start. Of the three chocolate puddings I'd be pushed to say which was the best but I think the one on the left filled with pistachio soufflé just about wins.

You get the full works at Le Manoir. A lovely lounge for before and after your meal. Drinks and amazing canapés beforehand, coffee and petits fours to finish. You pay for the experience of course (The bill was £281 before service)!
We ate from the A la Carte menu - the cheapest option. I didn't see anyone going for either of the set 5 or 9 course tasting menus. We shared a bottle of Temperanillo and a glass of dessert wine.
It was all fabulous but it makes the three course luncheon seem like an amazing deal at £62.50 per person, plus you get to see the fabulous gardens.

The next morning one of my fellow swimmers was telling me that she went to Le Manoir just before Christmas a few years ago. Apparently thay had drinks and canapés and then all processed down to the local church to a Carol Service. Then back to Le Manoir for a big meal. She stayed the night too and said she thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I can well imagine.

And for those of you worried about the fussy eater, he ate all that was put before him - a duck liver concoction, Roast Piglet, and the Wrong Pudding. He'd ordered a pear tarte tatin and was given something totally different which featured passion fruit (he wouldn't normally eat passion fruit)! I think he'd forgotten what he ordered, ate it and then was told by the waiter that they had made a mistake and he wouldn't have to pay for it but he could still have his pear dish. He declined on the grounds of being completely stuffed!

He was up most of the night complaining of indigestion . . .

I'm sorry that this is so late and not very detailed. My dad is back in hospital, his wife is practically snowed in at home and I am back and forwards to Norfolk.

Monday, 15 November 2010

A tale of two puddings

One of the joys of being a new grandparent is that there are more opportunities for getting the whole family together for Sunday lunch. Taylor's aunt and uncles are all keen to see him at every opportunity and quite happy for me to cook for them! Taylor's dad is working in Texas for a couple of weeks so my daughter was at a bit of a loose end. Thus it was that we gathered at the family home for roast pork with all the trimmings. (My eldest son takes after his father in his belief that lunch on Sunday has to be a roast, it's the law)!

Some friends were performing a samba routine in the Lord Mayor's Show on Saturday and whilst settling down to watch it on TV I inadvertently caught the last 10 minutes of one of Rachel Allen's baking programmes. She is so smug that I usually want to hurl something at her but I was completely won over by the trainees who were making her sticky toffee pudding and her toffee sauce. In fact I was so won over that as soon as I had spotted Tammy and co doing their routine I was off to buy all the ingredients in Tesco. (Fortunately chopped dates were on a 3 for 2 offer). The cake was really tasty, dead easy to make and the sauce was sensational (and apparently it keeps for ages in a screw top jar). My family absolutely loved the pudding and it will be made again and again.

I had been wanting to make Nigella's tiramisu ever since I bought Kitchen. Tracking down Fra Angelico was a bit of a chore until I spotted a bottle in the largest of our local Waitrose stores. Well all I can say is that it wasn't really worth the effort. It tasted like Tiramisu always does. The family thought it too boozy and so I am still chomping my way through it on my own.

I had forgotten that we have a really fine cut glass bowl for trifley things. I don't think my lasagne dish quite does it justice.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Leckford chicken

When my family were growing up we often had a chicken as a mid-week roast. It fed the 6 of us and provided enough leftovers for my husband's lunchtime sandwich. In those days I would buy the cheapest intensively-reared birds I could get. Costco used to sell two for a fiver I seem to recall and I thought it was a lot of nonsense that a free range bird could possibly taste any different,

How times have changed. The various campaigns mounted by the TV chefs have all had their impact but the thing that swung it for me was the day I cooked a cheap chicken in my slow-cooker. I had been assured by friends that all I needed to do was stick the bird in, put the lid on and leave all day on low. Well yes. It was moist and it was tender. But oh gosh. The juices it had given off tasted terrible. Chemical and unnatural. From that day on I have only bought free range birds.

Waitrose sell Leckford chickens and I buy one whenever they are reduced to clear or on special offer. Roast chicken is now a real treat in the Lark household. Last Wednesday I picked up a 2kg RTC one for just over £8. It did a fab roast for 4, a chicken risotto for 2 and the chicken and mushroom pie pictured. The pie also served 4 and my daughter took what was left to school the next day for lunch for herself and 2 colleagues. And in the slow cooker the next day I made 2 litres of stock from the carcass. Not bad value was it?