Archive for the ‘Emma Jenkins of EJ Catering’ Category

Christmas nibbles by E J Catering

December 19, 2011

Christmas nibbles to put in the freezer.

MAKING Christmas food ahead for the freezer, spreads the cost, the hassle, the pressure and the mess but, as I found out this week, the most important part of cooking for the freezer is to make sure you have room in it before you start!

I spent an evening prepping, imagining Christmas and all the noise and mess with just a small amount of dread but the radio was on and the tunes helped my thoughts flow away – until I opened the freezer and discovered it was full.

This weekend’s job is to defrost and eat. At work my freezer is 3mx2m, big enough to keep a snowman in there, so I know my Christmas nibbles will be safe, even if they are six miles away from my house!

Twisted cheese and chorizo straws

2 sheets of puff pastry

1 egg

1 tablespoon of mustard – any type

100g chorizo or smoked bacon

4 spring onions

60g parmesan cheese

1 stick of celery

Remove the skin from the chorizo and dice small, or slice the bacon and cook in a hot pan until crispy.

In a small chopper or magimix put the chorizo / bacon, chopped spring onions, grated parmesan, celery stick and whizz it to a chunky paste

Lay a sheet of puff pastry on the work top and stab it all over with a fork. Now crack the egg and beat it with the mustard. Spread this generously over the pastry before spreading on  the chunky paste.

Lay down the second sheet of pastry, stab it and egg wash it and now put it on top. Gently stick them together. Put this all back in the fridge because it is much easier to cut and twist when it is firm and chilled.

A few hours later, remove from the fridge and cut strips lengthwise about a centimetre wide. Twist one hand to the right and another to the left till you have a lovely twist of pastry with the colour of the chorizo coiled through. Put them back on the baking tray and into the freezer.

On Christmas morning put them on a baking tray from frozen and into the oven at 175C for about 8-12 minutes. The family will be queuing at the oven door for the twists which look a little like sticks of savoury candy

Other fillings:

Sautéed leek and brie; red onion, tomato and Caerphilly (use a squeeze of good quality sundried tomato paste); blue cheese, walnut and celery – all delicious.

Christmas shortbread – make, roll and freeze

2 oz caster sugar

4oz butter

6oz flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon, ginger, cloves or lemon or orange zest whichever takes your fancy

Cream the butter and sugar together, add the flour and spice and work into a dough. Rest it in the fridge. Roll it out onto a floured surface about ½cm thick and cut into a shape. Freeze these on greaseproof paper until you are ready and cook from frozen at 140C for 8-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and lightly dust with sugar. Warning: the family will be queuing again!


Superwoman by E J Catering – How the Rhino got his Skin

September 5, 2011

My children Molly, Jake and I spent our summer holiday in my grandmother’s house in the heart of the Lake District.    Everyday we made pasties filled with the leftover supper from the night before, we packed drinks, a book and headed out for a walk around a lake, along a river, or up a small fell in search of a water fall.  The weather just held to a typical British summer and the kids threw stones, leaves and twigs, scrambled, climbed, moaned, ran, jumped and paddled.  We were constantly on hunt alert for slugs, mushrooms, frogs and Penguin biscuit rocks – amazing rocks found only on certain special mountains that conceal Penguin biscuits for little people with tired legs.

My Granny Anne’s house is full of old leather books with titles such as Ancient Foods of England, Collection of the Giant Moths of the British Isles, Birds of New Zealand, five volumes of  lectures by Winston Churchill, Games for Children, something for anybody and everybody.  I found a small red leather book printed in 1942, Rudyard Kipling’s Just so Stories. I packed it safely in our lunch sack and under a large oak tree read How the rhino got his skin.  At the beginning of time the rhino had a very smart, tight coat with three large buttons under his belly.  One day he came across a cake baked by a local warrior which he stole and ate.  The warrior was cross with the rhino and so the next time the sun shone and the rhino took off his coat to bathe the warrior rubbed sticky cake crumbs into the inside of the coat.  After bathing the happy Rhino put back on his coat and started to itch and itch, he rubbed against trees, posts and rocks to relieve the itching, his buttons broke off , his skin stretched and sagged and the rhino got his grumpy face because ever since he’s suffered itching under the skin!

Sticky plum cake

225g soft butter

450g  ripe plums

1 lemon zest and half its juice

225g caster sugar

3 eggs  225g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

25g ground almonds

1 tbsp demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a deep cake tin.  Stone the plums and slice into eight crescent moons.  Cream together the butter, caster sugar, lemon zest and juice in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, sift the flour and the baking powder into the bowl and fold in with the ground almonds. Add the fresh plums to the mixture.  Spoon into the cake tin, lightly level the top and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake in the oven for 45-55 mins or until well-risen, brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. If the cake starts to look a little too brown, cover with a sheet of baking paper  Leave to cool slightly and remove the cake from the tin.  Serve with lightly whipped cream and a spoonful of honey.  And never steal anyone’s cake – you have been warned!

Superwoman by E J Catering – National Ice Cream Day

August 3, 2011

TWO weeks last Monday was National Ice Cream Day. I am sorry I missed it and with two small children how could I?
But who knew? Hands up, honestly if you knew!  Who decides these things, which national body, world wide organisation, local council of where comes up with this stuff?  Did you eat an ice cream two weeks last Monday?
Looking at my calendar for the rest of year its National Dog Day and Women Equality Day on FridayAugust 26 – why are they sharing, are there not enough days in the year?
It’s National Grandparent Day on Sunday, September 11 –  now that is an important one.
And why is not more commonly known? Someone  tell the card companies!
My mum is very active with my kids, has a great relationship with them  and we will be making a card, so in hindsight no one tell the card companies because homemade  is always the best way to a grandparent’s heart.
There’s UN Peace Day on Wednesday, September 21 and get this one, National Chocolate Covered Anything Day on December 15 – maybe my calendar is having a laugh or is there a Cover Everything in Chocolate group, where and when do they meet, is there one in Cardiff or should we start one?
Back to the ice cream and who says we can’t have a  second national ice cream day just incase you missed the first.

Recipe for vanilla ice cream, makes about a pint and half
½ pint double cream
½ pint full fat milk
1 fresh vanilla pod
6 egg yolks
6oz caster sugar
In a saucepan mix the cream and milk and gently heat.  Slit the vanilla pod in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds, add to the cream along with the pod (we will remove it later).
In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and the sugar.
When the cream is simmering pour it over the yolks, whisk it and return to the saucepan on a gentle heat until it thickens just like a custard.  If you overheat and split the custard immediately sieve into a cool bowl and beat the mixture well.
Allow to cool and churn in an ice cream maker until doubled in size.  Place in a freezer container and freeze until ready.
If you don’t have a churn or don’t fancy making your own I recommend Hapus ice cream on Caerphilly Mountain.
All that is left for me to say is Happy National Ice Cream Day the Second!

Superwoman by E J Catering

June 14, 2011

To end half term I took my children Molly and Jake to Folly Farm, it was a great day out, good value for money, spotlessly clean with loads to do, see and play on.  For me, although not necessarily for Molly and Jake, the highlight was seeing a journey of giraffes in Wales – five beautiful giraffes strolling around with the Pembrokeshire coast as their backdrop.

In January I was in South Africa and went on a four day safari. On our last day we asked if we could go on a walk into the bush.  Our guide asked what we wanted to track and we said giraffes. The experience was amazing, even before we saw the giraffes.   Walking in a straight line, close  behind the guide and his gun, we saw huge beetles, spiders and beautiful flowers. The creaks in the trees and bushes made our imaginations run riot.  Our guide told us a story of when he was training.  He had lain in the grass with his leg in the air in complete silence, moving his foot from left to right every now and again to imitate a young giraffe. An adult giraffe had become curious, walked over and stooped right over him, making his heart thump.
Within an hour we had seen 22 giraffes and we just sat and watched them walk around us in their natural environment.  After a while two of us lay down in the grass whilst  the guide and others walked off, about 150 metres away. We both put our legs in the air and moved our feet like periscopes pretending to be infant giraffes. The giraffes did move towards us but unfortunately there was a logging truck in the distance and they become anxious so we never got nose to nose with a giraffe but I have a fun memory.
For lunch we walked over to a quiet part of the farm to the nature reserve. Molly and I had made a spinach and ham tart which everyone devoured.
Being my weekend off I used a bought pastry sheet to line an eight inch tart case and baked it blind at 160C for 20 mins.
For the filling
6 eggs
2 large tablespoons of crème fraiche
1 packet of young spinach
200 g of cooked, thick cut ham, (I bought a joint and glaze roasted it the night before)
6 spring onions
150g Parmesan cheese, grated
In a bowl beat the eggs, yolks and crème fraiche.
To wilt the spinach, boil the kettle and put the spinach in a colander.  Pour the boiling water over the spinach.  This is enough to wilt it.
Squeeze out the moisture and put the wilted spinach into the bottom of the tart  case with the chopped ham and sliced spring onions.  Beat the eggs with the crème fraiche and season well with half the parmesan cheese, rock salt and black pepper.  Pour the mixture into the tart case and top with the rest of the parmesan.  Bake for 25 mins at 160C or until the top of the tart is brown and the tart mixture does not wobble.  Allow to chill and eat with a back drop of a journey of roaming giraffes!

Superwoman by E J Catering – The Royal Wedding

April 21, 2011

What will be on the menu for Kate and William next week?  I write so many wedding menus with the brides at my humble kitchen in Cardiff, we are creative, traditional, informal, formal, left field, classic but whatever they choose it always includes the couple’s favourite flavours and expresses something personal about them.

I can’t wait to read the royal menu, will it be cutting edge, will it be traditional?  My guess is it will be British, local and seasonal – the buzz words of the moment and for very good reason.  The food we produce here in Britain is excellent. The vegetable gardens and royal allotments won’t be in full bloom but I would bet their land and producers feature. Will any Welsh produce be included?

Looking back on the royal wedding menu history, Victoria and Albert in 1840 ate an elaborate menu of at least 10 courses, written in French as is the royal banqueting custom, and promising such gastronomic delights as cod with oyster sauce, roast leg of lamb, ballotine of duck with Cumberland sauce, pheasant with potato ribbons, pastries with fruit and chocolate profiteroles. Elizabeth Bowes Lyons’ wedding to the Duke of York in 1924 had a nine foot wedding cake, as it is traditional to send cake around the world to the many dignitaries that didn’t quite make the list but could not be left out altogether.

Our current queen had her wedding cake made from ingredients from around the world in order to link her subjects to her special day.

Another tradition is to have part of the menu named after your self for example Consommé à la Windsor, Suprèmes de Saumon Reine Mary and Côtelettes d’Agneau Prince Albert.  For dessert Elizabeth II commissioned Bombe Glacée Princess Elizabeth!   Andrew and Sarah’s main course of Carre d’agneau Palosie was served with Couroane d’Epinards aux Champignons, Feves au beurre and Pomme nouvelles. I had to refer  to my A to Z of Gastronomy to translate that into lamb with spinach, mushrooms, beans and new potatoes!

Food moves through the times with fashion shaping it but I support the movement for a return to simple, honest cooking.

Royal Guards Welsh Rarebit on Teeny Toasts

Teeny Toast

1 small par baked baguette
Olive oil
Powered mustard
Rock salt

With a sharp knife cut the baguette into thin round slices
In a bowl mix together the olive oil, mustard powder and rock salt
Brush the baguette rings in the mixture on both sides and bake for 10 minutes at 160C or until golden brown – these are now crostini and a very useful base for many canapé toppings

Royal Guards Welsh Rarebit

150ml bottle of quality Welsh ale
Splash of cream to help it bind
Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
200g cheese

In a pan reduce the ale by half and add a splash of cream, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, the mustard and grated cheese.  Remove from the heat and stir to melt the cheese.  Allow this to cool and set in a block in a small plastic container.
Cut slices of the rarebit on to the teeny toasts and place in the oven or under the grill to melt and lightly brown.  Garnish with pumpkin seeds and eat in front of the telly with a glass of chilled prosecco

Superwoman by E J Catering – Be a Locavore

March 11, 2011

We all know a carnivore eats meat, a herbivore eats vegetables and an omnivore eats both but the other day my mum walked in saying she was going to try to be a locavore.   It seems it’s an American term for shopping and eating only local foods.  A few days later I bumped into an old friend on Cardiff’s Lower Cathedral Road whose New Year resolution was to shop and eat only from local sources for a year to see how it would change his eating habits.
The results are changing far more than just his eating habits.  He shops more regularly as it is often on foot and involves carrying bags.  As the journey on foot is slower and more purposeful he makes sure he never forgets his bag for life and so very proudly has not taken a new plastic bag this year.  Menu planning has become much more important and he finds himself reading lots of food related articles, recipe books and magazines.  His cooking is more efficient and creative, he is eating a lot more vegetarian meals, treating meat as a treat.  But the best of all is the social aspect, regularly shopping locally on foot he is meeting all sorts of old friends, work colleagues, it is doing wonders for business networking and making new friends.
Financially it is probably similar, what he is buying is a little more expensive but the quality more than makes up for it and he is not wasting any food.  Plus as the allotments begin to yield he is on a good few promises. He is well and truly becoming a character of the high street!

The Riverside Sunday market in Cardiff is a buzz of creative local suppliers. Standards and quality is high, food miles are low.  You follow the seasonal vegetables at their best .  I have recently starting juicing regularly.  The yield, flavour, smell and colour is so superior from local seasonal vegetables I am in danger of becoming a carrot snob!

Here are a couple of my favourite juices
A healthy booster
4 carrots
2 apples
1 celery stick
An inch or so of ginger

Detox and Vitamin C pick me up
2 raw beetroot
1 carrot
1 orange

Power and Irons
2 small handfuls of spinach
4 broccoli florets
1 carrot
2 apples
Small bunch of seedless grapes

Each recipe makes about a glass of juice

A year may be too much of a commitment for most of us to become locavores but we can try to be mindful about what and where we buy.  Maybe try buying vegetables only from a grocers for a month, there are lots of good ones.
Be healthy, be a locavore this Lent!

Superwoman by E J Catering

February 7, 2011

Last Thursday was Chinese New Year.  I decided to mark the occasion by eating a Thai glass noodle salad with sautéed scallops and king prawns followed by local belly pork with bok choi and bang bang sauce at a dinner I helped host.   It wasn’t directly in celebration but any excuse is a good excuse.
In January 1994 I travelled to Vietnam and arrived on the first day of the New Year celebrations, except I was not aware of it!  As I remember the celebrations lasted three days and it was basically open house.  Everyone invited me in, never had I been to such a friendly country and met such friendly people.  They gave me food, sweets, beer and flowers.   I went to a family house for supper of fresh white fish with a gorgeous sweet and sour red sauce, sticky rice and simple steamed greens.  I played with the children out on the street, pushing single bike wheels with a stick and running after them under candle lit lanterns and every now and then a string of fire crackers would be set off to everyone’s excitement.  If you’re not used to the noise it’s extremely alarming and you feel like you should run and duck for cover.

I have lots of amazing visual memories of Vietnam;  of markets, bus and train trips with stunning scenery streaming by,  gracefully dressed women and whole families of six or eight on one moped!  My favourite place was Ha Long Bay.  It is not surprisingly  a Unesco world heritage site and is in my personal seven wonders of the world.  The bay is filled with thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes, heights and sizes.  It is ethereal and dreamy, you could float and look for hours, days, weeks or maybe forever.

In a small bay I ate the following dish and the local host gave me this recipe.  It is fresh, quick and easy.

Seared king prawns with mint and yoghurt
Serves 4
16 large raw prawns, peeled
Olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
A large handful of fresh mint
1 green chill – deseeded
Teaspoon of roasted and ground cumin
Teaspoon of sugar or palm sugar
A good inch of fresh ginger
3 tablespoons plain yoghurt
A handful of mangetout
Half a cucumber
Lots of fresh coriander
Sea salt and black pepper

Marinade the raw prawns in half the lemon juice, sea salt and oil.
In a blender or good heavy pestle and mortar combine the mint, chilli, cumin, sugar, ginger and yoghurt to make a sauce or paste.  Season to taste.
Halve the cucumber and remove the seeds, cut into thick chunks, halve the mangetout and cut through the coriander
Heat a pan and quickly fry the prawns on both sides, add the mangetout for just a second, turn off the heat and add all the other ingredients to the sauce pan and combine.  Serve immediately over steamed white rice and add a view of Ha Long Bay ( Google it!)

Superwoman by E J Catering

October 22, 2010

Wales the True Taste 2010 is just a few weeks away. The True Taste Awards are the Welsh awards for small and large producers of everything from free range chicken, confectionery, cheese, sausages, dairy, lamb, beef, wines, beers and juices. It includes the best well-sourced deli and vegetables grown in Wales.

We won an award last year for our homemade lemon and thyme cordial.  The accolade allows great marketing potential and support from the Welsh Assembly Government.

This year we entered the long and difficult tender process to cater for the awards dinner, research, menu planning, local sourcing, budgeting and creative ideas all went into my long tender document and I was thrilled to be awarded the job.   It is a great honour as all the guests are very knowledgeable food lovers.
All the food must be sourced from the county in which the awards dinner is to be held and each year this changes giving every county their time to show off their produce.  This year it is Pembrokeshire and there will be 500 guests attending the event.  The event  attracts many major sponsors.    I organise the staff – there will be more than 50 – and the table hire, including more than 4,500 pieces of cutlery, 3,750 items of crockery and I am yet to calculate the total number of glasses!
We hire in all the equipment required for the kitchen in order to get the meal out quickly, efficiently and of course piping hot. It is a mammoth but exciting task.
Last week we held the menu tasting at our kitchen in Clive Road, Cardiff. It is a fun, full-on day and lots of decisions were made.  I don’t want to give the menu away at this stage so my recipe this blog is for the energy bars I will making for the chefs to keep them going throughout the day which will be long, full of pressure, heavy loads and deadlines.
Ej’s energy bar
12 oz oats
2oz toasted sesame seeds
3 oz of walnuts
2oz pumpkin seeds
4oz crunchy peanut butter
4oz Welsh honey
Juice of half an orange
Zest of 2 oranges
3oz dried chopped apricots
2oz dried chopped prunes
2oz golden sultanas
2oz dried cranberries
Feel free to adapt the nuts and dried fruits to suit your taste or what’s already in your cupboard
Place all the seeds and nuts on a large baking tray and toast in the oven for about 5-10 mins.  Watch carefully you do not want them to burn, just turn golden brown and fill the kitchen with roasting smells.
In a saucepan melt the honey and peanut butter with the orange juice and zest
Add all the dried fruit and nuts to the pan.  Line a baking tray with cling film and then firmly spread the mixture into the baking tray.  Put in the fridge for at least an hour – overnight is best.
Turn out and cut into wedges.  For a really decadent version coat one end of each wedge in melted dark chocolate.  It does not have to be all healthy it just has to keep us going!

Superwoman by E J Catering

August 5, 2010

Drawn by the mountains and images of wonderful prayer wheels, big bells and goats I  flew off to Nepal for four months.
Kathmandu was more amazing than I could possibly have imagined – the smells, the colours, the woodwork, the noise, the craft, the people, the monks, the flowers, the crazy driving, the wandering goats, cows, sheep, they all added to the magic.
I had got a job teaching English in a boarding school just outside Kathmandu that was not quite so magical!  It was just off a main road where trucks thundered by, there was dust, dirt and stagnant water.  But the school itself was full of happy, hungry to learn, polite kids.
I struggled a bit with the four hours of teaching each day but the bit the kids and I both enjoyed was in the bunk house.  The kids stayed in small dorms and I sewed dolls’ clothes with the girls, built Wendy houses out of boxes and played backgammon with the boys. We all learnt to juggle, play French cricket and stick the tail on the donkey, we made one for each door of the house!
I spent my afternoons with the school cook, an uneducated, hard working man and I think he learnt the most English out of everyone!  We all took our meals on the flat roof with the Himalayas in the distance. Together we made momos, a dumpling, steamed or fried with any meat or vegetable filling flavoured with spices.  Here is my version.

Fresh wanton papers ( available in the fridge section of the Chinese supermarket in Neville Street, Cardiff)
Vegetarian filling:
Onion, carrot, cabbage, fresh ginger, fresh red chilli, lime,  a tablespoon kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), coriander
Grate the onion, carrot, cabbage ginger and mix with the chopped chilli, squeezed  lime, Kecap manis and chopped coriander.  Season and taste
Pork filling:
8oz minced pork
One inch fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
2 spring onions
1 green chilli
1 stem of lemon grass
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
1 tbsp oyster sauce
Whizz the ginger, garlic, spring onions, chilli and  lemongrass with the sesame seed oil and oyster sauce.  Mix with your hands into the minced pork

Lightly egg the edges of the wanton papers and place small teaspoons of either mixture into the middle, pull the edges up into little money bag shapes, twisting the tops

Either steam for 5 mins or deep fry and finish in the oven.  Just make sure the filling is cooked through

Serve with lightly wilted bok  choy best bought at the Chinese super market.

I spent my last month climbing the Himalayas. Walking  into the most beautiful horizons each day was breathtaking.  Each day the mountains became bigger and bigger until at last at 4am we reached the Annapurna base camp.  We were there in the snow and surrounded by ice capped summits of the most beautiful mountains in the world.  Eat momos and climb mountains became my mantra.

Superwoman by E J Catering

June 10, 2010

Molly’s first sports day was hilarious, as promised by the teachers and the fact that all the athelets were under four.  The grass track was about 15 meters long with two rows of chairs down one side filled with expectant and excited parents and grandparents.  There was a lovely atmosphere as we waited for our athletes to arrive.  At last the side door of the nursery opened and out streamed  40 kids –  two by two waving and smiling at their parents.  All the children entered all four races in groups of 5. The first race was just running forward; every one made it to the end in some form or another.  The next race was backwards;  they all made it to the end too although not all managed the full 15 meters backwards.  The next race was running forward but this time with a rubber ring on their heads, or at least it was at the start, not all the rings made it over the finishing line. The last race, but by no means the least, was the old classic egg and spoon race, brought up to date with a ping-pong bat and a bean bag.  Molly took this race very seriously and walked with full concentration from start to finish, completing the race a good 45 seconds after the race was well and truly over. All the parents clapped her all the way and she had a beaming smile on her face as she enjoyed her success and all the attention.  Jake, at nearly two, entered most races uninvited until in the end the head teacher gave in and gave the toddlers a race of their own.

I came last in my first ever mother’s race, to my amused disappointment –  I was not expecting to have to bat a ball as I ran.  I batted the ball way too high and spent my 15 meters chasing the ball forwards and backwards – let’s say tennis was never my best discipline but it was full of giggles and cheers from the little ones.  The fathers had to do the same race, but backwards!  Every one got a prize, a certificate and a lolly and went home full of the achievement of participating.

Raspberry ripple ice cream

This is a quick and easy cheat but full of natural flavour and fresh fruit.

1 litre tub of good quality vanilla ice cream

150gr of fresh or frozen ( defrosted) raspberries

Leave the tub of ice cream out of the freezer for about 20 mins with the lid off whilst you whisk the raspberries with a hand whisk to a puree.  When the icecream has become a soft constancy but by no means a defrosted liquid, fold in the raspberry puree with a large metal spoon.  Only make about 4 – 6 folds, it wants to have a ripple effect and not be completely mixed in with the ice cream.  Put the lid back on a re-freeze for at least an hour.  Serve in a bowl or in a waffle cone topped with a fresh raspberry.

This easy ripple ice cream is equally delicious with cherry, mango or strawberry purees

The sports day was really good fun, the sun shone and at the end the teachers were forced into a race. The Grannies were the only ones who got off scott free!