Archive for the events Category

Thanksgiving Feast

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, events, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by helenphillips

So this Thursday is Thanksgiving, and as we have only been in the US for 7 months, it’s our first.

New England,  Autumn 1621 – the early settlers that had managed to survive the first harsh year (as a whole, they had arrived unprepared) gathered together for a celebration that was to consist of 3 days of eating, drinking, dancing and playing games. They were joined by their neighbours, the Wampanoag tribe, who had dropped by to see what all the shooting was about. However, Thanksgiving didn’t become an annual tradition until the 1780s, and became a national holiday in 1863. And now Thanksgiving is the day of the year (always the last Thursday in November) dedicated to eating copious amounts of food, and settling down to a game of football.

Thanksgiving is also a time for parades, the most famous (and largest) of which is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in Manhattan. Here in Minneapolis, Friday sees the start of the annual Holidazzle celebration, which will continue every weekend through December.

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. As gloomy as it sounds, it actually marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, and is famous for it’s sales madness (people have been know to be trampled in the rush to get to the bargains). One chain of stores has been advertising that they will open at 3am on Friday, but I am determined to stick to internet shopping.

Our Thanksgiving Day will be spent with just the two of us eating and drinking more than is usually sensible. Having done some research into traditional dishes (most of which seem to involve copious amounts of butter and/or cream), I think it’s safe to say that the most traditional part of our feast will be the Turkey and the Cranberry Sauce. The trimmings are mostly influenced by our own British Christmas favourites – for this year at least. So here’s what’s on the Menu –


The tomato soup recipe comes from Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets, and is the first of his recipes I ever tried. I remember being quite intimidated by the book back then, but excited by the beautiful and colourful images. Over time I have gained more confidence (and a roomier Kitchen), and the recipes don’t seem so daunting now. The soup has already been made, making life a tiny bit simpler on Thursday.


The Turkey will be roasted – I’m not inclined to try the other method that is traditional in the US, which is deep frying. As there are only 2 of us eating on the day, we bought the smallest crown / breast we could find, which is still around 5lbs. I expect to be making lots of use of leftover turkey recipes in the months to come.

The Cranberry Sauce will the same that I’ve made for the previous 2 Christmas dinners. This year, we’ll also have Lingonberry sauce. Lingonberries come from Sweden, where Eddie spent most of his working life before we moved to the US, so an extra sauce was his suggestion after spotting the berries in the supermarket.

The Chestnut Stuffing will be based on a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Feast. Unfortunately I am currently having difficulty obtained canned puréed chestnuts, so some modification may be required!

The rest of the accompaniments will simply be roast potatoes (the American favourite seems to be creamy mashed), parsnips, savoy cabbage (this at least will be buttery), peas, and pigs in blankets. For those not familiar with the term, these are sausages wrapped in bacon, and the omission of these would cause great consternation.

Finally (possibly after a break, and a walk), dessert will be Crème Brulee (Aha! There will be a creamy dish). This will be the most challenging dish of the day for me, as it is my first attempt. If it’s a success, maybe I’ll even blog about it….

Happy Holidays!


Comically Good

Posted in events, Food, Home Cooked Food, Information, News with tags , , , , on May 19, 2010 by helenphillips

As a fan of Gordon Ramsay, I follow his posts on twitter. Earlier this week he posted about ‘Seriously Good‘, a range of sauces that he has done in conjunction with Comic Relief. I don’t use cooking sauces, but if I did, I’d probably use these, especially if they ranted at me like the ones on the website (hold the cursor over each label to see what I mean).

To paraphrase the official website, you (the buyer) get a great tasting sauce, developed by Gordon and his Chefs. The charity (Comic Relief) gets a minimum of 10 pence from each jar, and Gordon gets nothing apart from a warm fuzzy feeling.

For readers who are not already aware, Comic Relief is a UK based charity that was formed in 1985. Fund-raising is continual, but the major event is held every other year. All over the UK, the public take part in events to raise money, in conjunction with an evening of televised events featuring celebrities who supply comic entertainment. All the money goes to projects based in the UK, Africa, and anywhere else poverty is a problem.

So, please, next time you are looking for a new cooking sauce, try this and contribute to a very worthy cause.

To conclude, here is an awful photo of me with Gordon in Nonna’s Deli at the York & Albany restaurant in London.

Christmas Dinner 2008

Posted in Baking, Chocolate, Cooking, dessert, Dinner, events, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , , , on December 28, 2008 by helenphillips

Christmas Dinner this year was just the 2 of us. A Turkey would have been impractical, and neither of us are big fans. Goose was under consideration, but again deemed too big. So we had Gressingham Duck, cooked very simply using guidelines from Delia – roasted on a rack, with plenty of seasoning on the skin.

I retained some of the drained off fat, and used it to roast the potatoes, carrots and parsnips. In addition, there was the compulsory Sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and red cabbage (boiled and then sauteed in butter, red vinegar and sugar). There was no worries about not getting our 5 a day! The gravy was made from a stock made from the duck giblets, some red wine and cranberries. And finally, on the side was the cranberry sauce that I prepared on Christmas Eve.  Unbelievably, we forgot to do the sausages wrapped in bacon, and so ended up having them for supper on Boxing Day!

For pudding we had chocolate Souffle – the recipe comes from The Green & Blacks Unwrapped cookbook, the source of so many of my favourite recipes. It’s a simple recipe, as long as you don’t open the oven door mid cooking, then it should successfully rise.  The quantities quoted are to serve 6, but I managed to get 4 portions out of half the quantities – so I guess it depends on the size of your ramekins!


  • 100g (4oz) dark chocolate (min 60% cocoa)
  • 60g (2.5 oz) cocoa powder
  • 8 egg whites
  • 60g (2.5 oz) caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 190ºC / 375ºF / Gas Mark 5.

Melt the chocolate and butter using a basin over a saucepan of simmering water.

Put the cocoa into a saucepan, along with 150ml of cold water. Whisk to blend well, and heat until it boils. Boil for 10 seconds, and then add to the mixing basin of melted chocolate.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy.  Add a quarter of the egg white to the chocolate mix, and gently fold in until completely mixed. Fold in the rest of the egg white, keeping it gentle to keep air in the mixture.

Prepare the ramekins by brushing the insides with melted butter. Fill each ramekin to the rim, and level off.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

You can also make a caramel sauce using caramel chocolate and thick cream, but I cheat and use Dulce De Leche Caramel Toffee from Merchant Gourmet.

Cranberry Sauce

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, events, Food, Home Cooked Food with tags , , , , on December 24, 2008 by helenphillips

I’ve never been a big fan of cranberry sauce, but I’ve only really had the jarred stuff, and I am starting to enjoy more fruit & meat combinations.

So, when I came across Jeannie.H’s wonderful looking recipe on Flickr, I thought maybe I should give it a try. I’d bought some fresh cranberries anyway to go with the duck that we’re having for Christmas dinner, so all the ingredients were already available to me.
As there are only 2 of us, I scaled down the recipe to use just 100g cranberries, and adjusted the rest of the ingredients accordingly. I also found that it cooked a lot quicker because of the reduced quantities, so it’s best to keep an eye on how the mixture is doing!

100g of fresh cranberries
Juice of one small orange and it’s zest
25g golden caster sugar
35ml of Port


Place the all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer dissolving the sugar. Taste the sauce at this stage, I found this amount was quite sweet enough but more sugar can be added if required. Simmer gently and the cranberries start popping (don’t worry, it’s a gentle pop, they won’t start flying around the kitchen!). Turn the heat down and gently simmer (the sauce gets quite frothy) until the mixture thickens. I found this took around 6 minutes.
Spoon into a bowl, cover with some cling film, and leave to cool, before storing in the fridge.

I couldn’t believe how simple this recipe was, and am really looking forward to tasting it properly tomorrow!

Taste of London

Posted in events, festivals, Food with tags , , , , , , , on July 6, 2008 by helenphillips

The weather was muggy, and the skies cloudy, but this was far better than the rain we were expecting for this outdoors event.

The Taste of London is in it’s 3rd year (we first visited in 2006, last year we did Taste of Bath), and is essentially a food festival run over 4 days in July in Regent’s Park.  It’s an opportunity for some of the best restaurants in the London area to showcase some of their favourite dishes.  In addition, there are plenty of drinks to be sampled, and merchants representing the food and drink world.  The festival has it’s own currency – the Crown.  One crown is equivalent to 50p, and can be purchased in books of £10.

We had purchased VIP tickets at a cost of £50, which included £20 of Crown.  This enabled us to join a much shorter queue to get in, and also allowed us access to the VIP tent where we were provided with a complimentary glass of Laurent Perrier.  A glance at the drinks menu inside told us that an additional glass could be purchased for a scary 20 crowns.  When we first visited in 2006, we were treated to some tasty amuse bouche in the VIP area, so we were a little disappointed that this time the nibbles were confined to olives and nuts.
The other ‘advantage’ to access to the VIP tent was a chance to mingle with the ‘stars’.  I spotted Anthony Worrel-Thompson in an early scout for a table, and beat a hasty retreat.  Later in the evening, the tent became packed with people eager to listen to a performance by Jazz performer Jamie Cullum.  We were fairly close to the stage, so I was able to take a few photographs before escaping the crowds.

There were 40 restaurants represented there, but we were only able to sample a handful.  We each tried different dishes each time, and where possible tried different restaurants.

I think one of my favourites was one of the simplest – fish & chips from Tom’s Place.  I joined the crowd of people at the stand, but it was obvious what that popular dish was.  “who wants fish and chips” was answered with a  show of hands, resulting in a quicker service than anticipated.  The portion of beer battered red gurnard was generous in comparison to most of the other dishes, the chips were deliciously chunky, and tartar sauce was served on the side.  At the next stand, my husband sampled the ‘Seven hour braised lamb shoulder with balsamic onions and mash’ from Tom’s Kitchen.  It was worth the crowd and wait – the lamb was beautifully tender, and complemented well with the slightly tangy taste of onion and simple mash.
From the Arbutus stand, I found that the gruesome sounding ‘Braised Pigs Head’ was in fact delicious – moist and tender, though a little fatty.  It was accompanied by potato puree and caramalised onion (a popular combination it seems!).  Meanwhile, my husband was enjoying Canteen’s ‘spit roasted pork with mash & gravy’.
The only stand where we both tried a dish was Bumpkin – he had the Bumpkin Burger – a lamb burger with rosemary and olives, whilst I tried the Charter Pie.  I had no idea in advance what this pie may contain, and found that under the light pastry lid was chicken, ham and vegetables.  Later research indicates that ‘Charter Pie’ is the traditional name for this type of pie, and was the dish that Bumpkin manager Dariush Nejad recommended for ‘starving models-‘  Full story here.

Also available was wine and champagne tasting classes, cooking demonstrations and book signings.  The chefs demonstrating included Gary Rhodes, Aldo Zilli, and Marcus Wareing, but we did not attend any of these events.  At last year’s Taste of Bath event we participated in a beer tasting session, and thought it was a bit of pity that there was nothing similar here.

Despite them twisting our arms (again!) into spending lots of money on wine, I really must recommend Charles Mitchell wine merchants.  Not only is Chris Pacey extremely knowledgeable, he is also friendly and happy to help you choose the perfect wine – no matter how many samples it may take!

The atmosphere was laid back, with visitors ranging from the well-heeled to the more casual, and from couples to young families.  The dishes generally are quite expensive (and small!), but if you plan carefully you can make the most of your crowns, and take the opportunity to sample dishes that you may not if faced with a larger dish.