vegan dinnerIts been an intense week so far, for me! After the craziness of the Lido Park banquet last weekend in Droitwich Spa, I’ve barely had time to recover. The summer holidays have also begun, so now my wife and I have the endless attentions of our children to look forward to for the next six weeks! I joke, of course; we love to have them with us for the holidays. Juggling activities for the kids, prepping menus and courses for clients, as well as getting some quality time with the wife, are what makes up my busy summers – and I love every bit of it.
This week was a great example of why I love summer. In between teaching the kids how to make choux pastry, I had not one, not two, but three romantic dinners to prep and cook mid-week! On Monday, whilst the boys struggled with profiteroles under Jemima’s watchful gaze, I planned the Faulkner’s Engagement meal. Such pressure! This would be a night that both guests would likely remember for the rest of their lives – the beginning of the rest of their lives together. To add to this, I was also cooking ever so slightly outside of my comfort zone.

The soon-to-be Faulkners were vegans. Matthew had told me that their passion for free-from cooking was one of the things that initially bonded them. I love to cook under pressure and there’s something exciting about cooking away from home turf. In someone else’s home you sometimes have to work in confined spaces and with less than ideal equipment. I always bring my knives, utensils and pans with me – but the bulkier equipment just doesn’t fit in the car!

bbqThe night went off without a hitch, and the newly-engaged couple were thrilled with their three course vegan dinner. After another day of planning and baking with the kids on Tuesday, I went from a new engagement to an anniversary. After 25 years, Maude and Gerald were celebrating their Silver Wedding Anniversary. This was a lovely dinner, bought and organised as a surprise by their children – I simply turned up at the door with two steaks and the ingredients for a gorgeous summer salad. They were definitely surprised to have a middle-aged Spanish man in whites on their door step, but when they read the greetings card their family had left with me, smiles soon started appearing on their faces.

dirty ovenWith the weather being so stunning, I elected to use their barbecue to flash fry their locally sourced sirloins. I’d heard Gerald was a big fan of American style steaks, so I made sure to coat his with a sweet-BBQ marinade that I’d prepared earlier. Maude enjoyed hers blue, with a handful of fine cut hand-made chips and charred mushrooms. Its always a pleasure to serve these meals to such wonderful people in their own home. Serving guests in their own homes brings me a lot of joy and takes me back to my days in Madrid – cooking up delicious meals and then taking them straight to the table myself.

Wednesday signalled the last of the dinner dates. This was by far the most intensive meal to cook. The celebration was a birthday and my client, wife of the birthday boy, was extremely particular about the preparation of the rack of lamb I was to roast. In my restaurant days in London, we would dread customers who had particular requests and orders, but in my current profession I relish these opportunities. Claire wanted a specific blend of herbs used as a crust on their lamb centrepiece, with a selection of pickles and roasted vegetables from her garden no less!

npole+messy+baking+groupI had no issues working my designs around her requests. Anticipating some last minute changes, I arrived a couple of hours early and I was glad I did. Coming in to the modern kitchen, everything was clean and ready to use; everything except the oven. Claire was having kittens, she hadn’t realised how dirty it had got and was frantically scrubbing it when I arrived. Thankfully I knew a good company who could help me out in a snap. OvenU specialise in home oven cleaning operations, we soon had a man round to sort out the offending appliance.

A little humbled by her cleaning disaster, Claire was wonderfully cooperative during the evening and applauded loudly when the rack of lamb made its way to the dining table. Another lovely night spent in a delightful home. Even when I miss meals with my children, I can at least be pleased with the fact that I’m supplying an unforgettable one to someone else.

This weekend: a big Bar Mitzvah feast, more dietary restrictions and more concerned clients! But, for now I’ve got two days off and time to spare, to show the kids how to make chocolate eclairs: its going to get messy!

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party parkWhat a wonderful weekend we have had! There is nothing better than a successfully tackled job to affirm one’s passion for their work. This was by no means an easy one either. Nestled on the edge of the forests of Worcester, Droitwich Spa is a lovely town that I had not had the pleasure of visiting before. The Diamond Wedding Anniversary of June and Graham was the reasons for us being there, a banquet for sixty (a party member for each year of their union) was the plan. Having been in close contact with June and Graham’s children for the past three months, it was the logistics of the
evening that had most people worried.

four chefsBeing the height of summer, it had been decided that the banquet would be held outside, not a first for me personally but a challenge nonetheless. The Lido Park was the destination, which meant sourcing an entire al fresco cooking station and designing a menu around the practicalities of such a kitchen arrangement. Luckily, we were able to enlist the help of four chefs from The Gardeners Arms, a local gastro-pub. These lads not only came with their own compliment of sturdy outdoor cooking gear but were also technically superb. It was a joy to be once more cooking in a brigade of talented chefs, and our waiting staff (comprised of the younger members of the family present) were wonderfully responsive and attentive.

With the substantial heat, sizzling pans and gorgeous tapas; you would be forgiven of thinking that we were back in Madrid. Indeed, so joyous and passionate was the celebration that I was transported back to Spain and similar events I had attended in the great parks. There is simply nothing better than a clan coming together to celebrate a love that has lasted a lifetime. I wish them all the best; June and Graham’s love for each other is something that is only eclipsed by the passion they have for the well being and happiness of their family. On that note, I must attend to my own kin.Kids-asleep-in-car

The children came along with me to the party and, although they were full of excitement and energy earlier in the day, they now tire; collapsed in a drowsy pile on the sofas. I must away, to put them to sleep and prepare a night cap for my loving wife. This week we have three romantic dinners to prep as well as a Bar Mitzvah! Wish us luck!

 

Peppe

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