29 January, 2007

Burns Night Dinner

Now, I'm English (from the far south-east of the country too) and Lisa's a black American so why celebrate Burns Night? After all, what's Burns to us or we to Burns (to mangle Shakespeare)? Hard to say really. Certainly I have fond memories of Burns night celebrations with Scots friends when I was in my twenties and Lisa acquired a taste for haggis and whisky on our honeymoon in Edinburgh. Whatever the source of our enthusiasm, we've made it our custom to dine traditionally on 25th January each year.

This year we enjoyed the best haggis either of us can remember! Brought down from Edinburgh by Lisa's colleague Harry, it had a wonderfully rich flavour and delightful texture. We made our champit tatties (mashed potatoes) and bashed neeps (for which we use swede, which we like to cut with carrot for colour and flavour) but we passed on the bagpipes. Nonetheles, the cooked haggis was brought ceremoniously to the table by the chef and yours truly gave it the traditional address. The Selkirk Grace was said and we tucked in with great gusto. The pungeant haggis is perfectly complemented by the milder tasting vegeatbles and, of course, all is accompanied by many a "wee dram"!

22 January, 2007

Mei Hua cooks duck

Lisa's work colleague, Mei Hua, came over on Saturday to cook a duck (Chinese style) with us. I say "with us" but in truth Mei Hua ran the show and Lisa and I were her more than willing sous-chefs. To begin with much attention was lavished on the duck itself then, while the duck was roasting, Mei Hua concocted a delicious accompanying dish of mackerel on a bed of sliced vegetables topped with sliced omelette. Not content with that, she whipped up a truly home-style Chinese soup as a starter and then tossed off a dozen pancakes in which to wrap the main course. Stunning food that was matched by the fun and laughter that filled the kitchen all evening long. We can't wait to do it again!

08 January, 2007

Entertaining Joyce

Lisa's great friend, Joyce, came over from New York on a visit to spend New Year with us. She did the same last year, so we must be doing something right as hosts!

Lisa has written up the New Year's Eve dinner in A Cook's Journal but that was far from the only culinary highlight of the visit. The Genoese minestrone in the photo was prepared by yours truly as a relatively easy-to-eat dinner the day before for Joyce's first (and consequently jet-lagged) evening here. A huge pot of vegetables is gently cooked down to an intensely flavoured soup, laced with pesto and topped with lashings of parmesan cheese.

On New Year's day we worked up an appetite with a stroll across nearby Coldham's Common and then went to work to prepare Jamie's "Incredible baked Lamb shanks", yet another stunningly successful dish from "Cook with Jamie". As Lisa and I were back at work the following day, Joyce turned the tables on us and treated us to dinner out on her. At our suggestion she took us to the Wok & Grill in Trumpington: a pan-East Asian restaurant that
features a deliciously tasty buffet together with a chance to have your own choice of ingredients and sauce stir-fried in front of you by one of the restaurant's chefs. Great fun and hugely popular.