Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Pot Kiln, nr Yattendon, Berkshire

The first thing we noticed walking into the Pot Kiln in Yattendon, Berkshire, was the head chef/owner sitting at the bar chowing down on the sharing platter for two (to himself!) With his cheesy grin, floppy hair, wellies and labrador (was there really a dog? I may be making that up!?) he sat at the bar like the Big Man and doled out advice to people struggling to choose their brew (many local ales to choose from).

When we later sat down at our table in the main restaurant we were struggling to choose from the delicious menu, primarily consisting of game. (You can see the menu here, looking a bit scruffy as i had it folded in my handbag for a while before I took the photo!).

The big debate was whether to go for the 'pavé of Lockinge Fallow deer, pomme puree and peppercorn sauce' (£16.50) or the 'peppered t-bone of Lockinge Fallow deer, creamed spinach and farcement potatoes' (£16.50) - so we sent Claire off to the bar to ask the Big Man himself. Making the comparison between a fillet of beef and a t-bone steak, he said that the pave was the prime piece but for flavour and a meatier texture the t-bone is king. Going on his advice all three of my dining buddies went for the t-bone and I (being physically unable to order the same as anyone else at the table) went for the pavé, described on the menu as being "a French cut of meat, the individual muscles of of the haunch are separated lengthways resulting in a virtually fat-free 'slab'".

The unanimous verdict was that the others had serious food envy after trying mine! The meat had a really deep flavour and the mash, sorry, pommes puree, was seriously rich and buttery...mmm...drool.

The others went for a starter of a sharing platter for two, consisting of 'soft boiled truffled duck egg, roe rillette, crispy pig's cheeks, Fallow carpaccio, Mutjac cutlets' (£14) which reminded me a lot of my starter The Harwood Arms in Fulham, the sister restaurant to the Pot Kiln:

My starter was a ragu of Berkshire hare, tagliatelle, aged parmesan, Wiltshire truffle (£8.95). It was very nice, but I have to say I had serious food envy of the platter! The ragu lacked a bit of depth and I’m not convinced there was any truffle in it but it was perfectly nice and if I wasn’t so envious I would’ve enjoyed it much more!

James went for a special from the board which was the most enormous kilner jar of potted venison – delicious but enough for two people!

Oh, and we had delicious wine which I'm sure was a Pinot Noir. I do vaguely remember having cheese and thinking it was too cold to be served. I'm a bit embarrassed to say I can't actually remember the dessert but I know there was chocolate somewhere, and rhubarb somewhere else and port and a Montbazillac, which always slips down easily!

Apparently they do incredible pizzas in their wood-fired oven on a Sunday night for the locals which I'd be interested to try but this is The Don of game restaurants, so I'm not sure I could choose a pizza over a pavé of Fallow deer!

The Pot Kiln,
Frilsham, nr Yattendon, Berkshire

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Benares at the Putney pop-up restaurant for Haiti

Roll up! Roll up! For one night only (well actually two) Benares at the Putney pop-up restaurant in aid of Haiti.

Yay! I managed to get a booking. And yay! It was actually as good as I'd hoped it would be! Atul Kochhar's Michelin-starred Indian restaurant is one i've been wanting to go to for a long time. I feel like i have a personal relationship with Atul, who has appeared in my life in various places (is it meant to be?!). I first saw him on Great British Menu (which I hope they're going to make another series of as it's one of the foodie highlights of my year...sad, I know!), then when i was doing my cooking diploma at Leith's, he came in for in a cooking demonstration, where he made the most incredible tandoori chicken, and then I saw him at Taste of London where I mentioned I had seen him at Leiths and he gave me a wink and slipped me a lamb chop!

So, first up was an amuse bouche of onion fritter with tamarind sauce (really a mini onion bhaji). It doesn't look very attractive in this photo as I think the camera flash picked up on every dust fleck on the plate, but it was tasty, if a little oily.
For my starter I had soft shell crab which was very simply presented but delicious, moist and light. The scrumptious sauce tasted slightly lemongrassy to me but I'm not sure exactly what it was as it wasn't mentioned on the menu. It would've been nice to have a bit more detail on the menu, to be honest.
My sister had the pan fried potato cakes with tomato chutney which, again were tasty but a little greasy for me.

Mains were the real star of the show. My seabass with coconut stew (the closest dish in the following photo) was incredible and had the flavour of my favourite spice (or herb?) in the world...curry leaves. At the back you can see my sister's 'lamb rump with chick peas' (not a very enticing description on the menu!) which came with the most delicious bright green sauce underneath the chickpeas. I think it was green chillies, whizzed up with mint and coriander...the tastiest thing of the whole evening! What a kick! But a perfectly balanced kick that doesn't linger too long.
The sides of 'potato and spinach', naan bread and especially the 'back lentil specialty' (presumably 'black lentil'?) were also fantastic and packed with flavour.
Finally, my dessert was pisctachio and mango kulfi (Indian ice-cream) which you can see in the foreground. A nice refreshing end to the meal.

A touch of glamour in Putney!
(£60 for 3 courses, £10 corkage, though I think we were the only ones that did BYO!)

Monday, 1 March 2010

Chocolate wedding cake

Jo: Early last year I offered to make my sister’s wedding cake, for her wedding in September. That offer was promptly quashed by my family as I was advised against taking on the stress of doing that and being bridesmaid on the day. The other issue was that she has expensive taste and grand visions of what she wanted in a cake. After attending the Designer Wedding Show and looking at the beautiful Linda Fripp cakes, she was smitten. After checking out the price of one of Linda’s incredible creations, she asked if I was still interested in doing it!

The groom is a complete chocoholic so it had to be chocolate, despite my dad’s protestations against a black wedding cake ("It's so unromantic!"). I looked on the internet and picked out a few designs and we settled on a square 3-tiered chocolate cake decorated with chocolate curls, fruit to fill the gaps between each tier and flowers on top. A variety of flavours and cake bases were tested and we even did a blind tasting with both the families to try. The result was unanimously in favour of the chocolate cake with raspberry filling, (well, almost unanimous...except for the groom who opted for chocolate & orange!)
A resounding success, masses of compliments ensued and I felt very smug!

Although I got up at 7am to start and I was still assembling the cake an hour before the ceremony (eek!) I know that if I were to make another one it would take half the time and be relatively stress-free. I would do it again in a flash if anyone were to ask me.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say it, but the cake recipe I used is actually the first one that comes up on Google if you type in “wedding cake recipe”! It's from BBC Good Food Magazine.

The icing and filling was just a basic ganache recipe (equal quantities of chocolate and double cream) layered up with raspberries, and then the chocolate curls (bought from were stuck on to the ganache. Simples!