News from Merrow Savouries

Fresh Homemade Soup

Life is a Minestrone
(anyone over 50 will remember the 1975 song!!)

Minestrone is a classic Italian dish prepared (albeit with a little Sue’s poetic licence) of more or less whatever you have left in the fridge or cupboard.

So, is perfect to serve at the moment, if you need to use up what you have or are deferring a trip to the supermarket, or you are able to not use a vital grocery delivery slot – that you may not really need yourself and someone else would really appreciate.

It is also cheap to make, wholesome, filling, nutritious and yummy.

You don’t even have to use the freshest of veggies and this recipe idea– should serve about 8 good bowlfuls.

– Start by chopping up a large onion or leek, a couple of carrots and 3 celery sticks (use the leaves as well, we don’t want to waste food).

– Now sauté them in oil (doesn’t matter what type, use whatever you have,) in a large lidded pan, until soft.

– Add a couple of tins of tomatoes and about 2 pints of vegetable stock. If you don’t have many tinned tomatoes, use more stock, but it is good with lots of tomatoes, even chopped fresh ones. If you have been able to roast a chicken and have the bones – then boil them up for a couple of hours in seasoned water and use the flavoursome meaty liquid for the stock.

– Now allow the vegetables and stock to bubble away for a good 20 minutes.  Season and dare I say – add some sugar to taste – always a great idea to bring out the flavour of tinned tomatoes.

– Then add a good handful of pasta – anything – spaghetti, conchigllie, fusilli, does not matter; and a tin of drained beans or pulses – whatever you have – which could be cannellini, chickpea or butterbeans.  Then finally a handful of shredded fresh cabbage leaves.  Simmer away for about 10 minutes until all veggies and pasta are cooked. If you have some fresh herbs, perhaps parsley or basil that has seen better days- chuck that in as well.

And that is my version, but do make up your own with whatever you have – Add practically any chopped vegetable, even frozen ones, even ‘left overs’ from supper, add chopped potatoes to the veggies to bulk it up– or perhaps add some cooked chicken if you have it.

Just keep piling anything you have into the pan – although if you add too much, you may need more tinned tomatoes or stock or just seasoned boiled water, which is great – it just means there is even more to go around.

Very filling so good enough to eat on its own or with chunks of bread if you are really hungry.

Enjoy and feel good that you have made something delicious out of basically what you have!

 

Sue
Merrow Savouries

Soup for Julia

We were recently hugely privileged to be asked to cater for the friends and family of one of Merrow’s most loved and respected residents. This wonderfully kind lady always had a smile on her face and a pack of biscuits in her hand to share around. As the colder Autumn days approached, her final days, being the ever – thoughtful lady she was, she was still thinking of other people – and requested that when her time came- that the guests be able to enjoy sandwiches and cakes and copious cups of tea plus – a mug of hot home made soup. Her favourite was Rustic Tomato.

As expected, hundreds and hundreds of people came to St Pius on a cold rainy Monday to say their goodbyes. As requested by so very many of them … here is the recipe for the soup Tom made for her guests and we served on that day (albeit he made 45 times the quantity I suggest here!) …

To serve 6 .. In a large saucepan with a tablespoon of oil, place 2 large finely diced carrots, 2 thinly sliced celery sticks and 2 finely chopped onions. Now put the lid on the pan and allow the vegetables to sauté and soften for about 15 minutes. Now add 2 finely chopped fresh garlic cloves, 2 tins of the best tomatoes you can find and 6 large chopped fresh red tomatoes (no need to skin them). Allow all these vegetables to simmer away for about another 15 minutes. Then add a really good handful of chopped fresh basil leaves which will wilt immediately in the hot nectar.

Finally, you can season to your taste – a good pinch of salt, and a good grind of fresh black pepper. Perhaps a pinch or 2 of sugar may also be your liking? But, without the latter, apart from still being delicious it is a great way towards your healthy five -a -day.

That’s it! Now it is up to you how to serve it – we wanted it really thick and rustic so just blended with the hand blender for a few seconds. Or you could serve it really smooth and blend for much longer – even sieve it (if you have the time or inclination!). Even add some water or stock if you like it less thick and rich. If you want to cheat you could also just double up on the tinned tomatoes and leave out the fresh ones. But to be honest, whilst a little cheat is often no problem, with this soup – the better the quality of the tinned tomatoes and more importantly – the smell, flavour and texture of the fresh ones really does make all the difference. And please, no dried basil or dried garlic for this one.

So, there you are…. a very simple, very delicious soup – especially for Julia.

Enjoy
Sue

what comes around goes around….

 

Well, I do hope you have all had a most enjoyable summer break, and welcome to autumn! Hopefully a season of beautiful colours, happy times and celebratory occasions. The traditional summer holidays, do not really exist for me, because it is, of course, a very busy time of year for us professional caterers.

This summer has seen Merrow Savouries catering for beautiful weddings, barbecues, copious anniversaries and birthday parties, an uber posh VIP doo, and sadly many funeral receptions. But, probably the most lovely and special occasion I have ever had the privilege to cater and manage–, organized by her great –grand- daughter (think about that!) was a 100th birthday party for the most amazing and special lady. Incredibly there were over 150 guests in a stunningly decorated marquee in Worplesdon. I only hope I know that many people when I am 100, never mind someone throwing me a party like that. And no I wont be catering for that event!

This summer has also seen me experience two other special events. When I was a young teenager at school in Guildford, my domestic science teacher was my hero. Possibly because she offered a break from all that academic stuff.   I loved being in the little kitchens, each one colour co-ordinated depending on which ‘house’ you were in. I hung on to every word and they still ring true in my ears today ‘ This is a pepper girls and you must never ever serve it with the seeds’ she threatened and I never have! ‘ ‘Have you sieved that flour Susan?’. “ Of course” I cowered.  Would I dare not ? ‘Is that sink sparkling clean?’ Of course it was. Then there was her Aunt’s recipe for Christmas cake. With marzipan fruit decorations. Weeks of work. I was only 13 years old and did not want to disappoint.

By a string of coincidences I learnt that wonderful lady and my inspiration, was living nearby. I knocked on her door to say hello and thank her for nurturing my love of cooking and entertaining. Incredibly she remembered me from 40 years ago. Even that I was in the ‘yellow’ kitchen.

But what comes around goes around. I was delighted to be able to tell Mrs McCurdy that not only had she inspired me to cook for and manage thousands of functions and occasions but now, my son, Tom, has joined me with the family business. Turns out he loves it as much as me. Perhaps it is in the genes? Tom brings with him a wealth of experience of managing farm shops, delicatessens, bars and restaurants, and a boutique hotel. Plus organizing and managing countless functions and special occasions, from posh intimate dinner parties to huge special events. But what he really loves is being in the busy kitchen, cooking, proper cooking especially if given a free reign with his delicious canapes and cakes.

How lucky am I? A job I absolutely love and relish every day – cooking and entertaining; and now my son, Tom is beside me.

Thank you, Mrs McCurdy. You certainly started something…

Sue

Facebook new girl

15 years of Merrow Savouries and being the techno dinosaur I am, have never been on Facebook!  Am I the only one in the world left to admit this?   Tom now on board so all change et voila – am now well and truly hooked.  Have to admit to enjoying posting all our latest news and pics.

Got it wrong….

Tom says 56 jars is no where near enough…..So,  today made another 32. Ran out of jars or could have made more.  Will make more next week,  as I have so many red and green tomatoes, apples and courgettes from  our garden;  once I have sourced more jars!!!!  Cant decide if peeling all those veggies is mucho boring or very relaxing and therapeutic, although will still taste yum once they have matured in a couple of months…

September Chutneys

Been saving empty jam jars all year and spent yesterday and today making chutneys and pickles to accompany our home baked hams and meat platters.  My friend and much valued team member, Barbara gave me some really beautiful apples so….apple, apple and mint, apple and ginger plus a special spicy one for Christmas; but also red tomato chutney, curried green tomato, pumpkin and red pepper and finally pickled red cabbage. 56 jars should keep us going!

Big News for Merrow Savouries!!!

I shall write about this in more detail shortly, but for now, the biggest and best news ever…..my son Tom has joined me at Merrow Savouries.  It is now a proper mother and son family business.  I am thrilled to have him beside me. He is  hugely talented in so many aspects. His canapés,  finger food, little cakes and cookies in particular are amazing.   And he plans on being able to prepare much smaller dishes of lasagnes, shepherd pies and casseroles suitable for those on their own or for the busy parent wanting a home cooked meal for their family but just does not have the time themselves.  Watch this space…. More info to follow…………..

Three desserts I made earlier!!!

 

 

It is barbecue weather again and what a great way to entertain your guests. As in most families, cooking the meat and fish over the charcoals is very much the male domain, so I concentrate on inventing and devising salad combinations and the desserts. With all that food being consumed I think the desserts need to be relatively light and certainly not stodgy. Something fruity is good. However, I do not want to be stuck in the kitchen preparing a last minute pud and miss out on all the fun and laughter in the garden, so all my contributions must be prepared well in advance, and just brought out of the fridge, as required.

So, why not try Peaches in Masala

Pour a generous 500ml of masala wine into a large pan together with 40g of caster sugar. Bring to the boil (do take care as boiling alcohol and sugar is a real burner, both in the pan and on your arm!) Meanwhile, cut in half and de-stone 6 ripe peaches or nectarines.   Now, turn the heat right down and simmer until reduced by a good half and slightly thickened. Then, add the halved peaches, and the seeds of a vanilla pod. Allowing the peaches to soak up some of the liquid nectar, simmer away for about 15 minutes or until soft. Turn off the heat and simply leave the peaches to cool in the pan. Presentation is of course, always so important, especially if a dish is so simple – so, once cold, arrange the softened peaches and their divine liquor (which will have thickened right up once cold) in your best glass dish or play at being cheffy and place 2 halves into individual large tall stemmed wine glasses. Serve with Clotted cream or ice cream, or better still clotted cream ice-cream! Or be very good and present some fat free crème fraiche(!) Delish as it is or add a sprinkling of crushed amaretti or ginger biscuits, or some toasted almonds.

Or try a Summer Fruit Brullee…

Layer a shallow heat proof dish with slices of fresh peaches, nectarines, plums or grapes or a mixture of your favourite fruits. Generously cover with half whipped crème fraiche to whipped double cream. Chill well in the fridge for a couple of hours. Then sprinkle generously with brown sugar and pop under a very hot grill just for a few moments, for the sugar to crisp up and brulee.   Chill again. There is a cheats version to this by putting the fruit and cream in that glass dish of yours and instead of adding the sugar after chilling and before grilling – Add the sugar before chilling. Et voila after a couple of hours in the fridge the sugar will have melted on top of the cream, it wont be crispy like a brulee but it will certainly still taste good!

Finally, the easiest dessert there is. Fill that lovely glass dish with copious frozen, yep straight from the freezer, strawberries and blueberries and allow your guests to pick them up with their fingers. Then tell me if you don’t think they just like an ice cream!
Enjoy the summer, the barbys and of course the desserts!
Sue

Tom’s favourite supper!

 

My son, has recently ‘gone- off –travelling’ – again, continuing his quest to ‘see the World’ . The night before this last trip I asked him what he would like me to cook for him as a farewell –for- now dinner. He chose Butternut Squash Rissotto and here I share his favourite supper with you…

Firstly for 4 people you need to peel and deseed a large butternut squash. Then dice the gorgeous orange flesh into 3cm chunks. Put them on an oven tray. Add a couple of chopped garlic gloves and drizzle with olive oil and a good splash of balsamic vinegar. Bake in a hot oven for about 30 minutes and cook until the vegetable is nice and squashy. Meanwhile, cook some risotto rice, preferably in half white wine/half stock, as per the packet instructions. Now combine the cooked rice and cubed squash; stir in 250 grams of creamy goats cheese and an entire 200 gram packet of pre washed spinach. Stir to mix. Taste to season, but it probably will not need salt, just a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. The cheese will melt quickly in the hot rice and the green leaves will wilt almost immediately. Serve piping hot, sprinkled with a generous amount of toasted pine nuts… I have also made this risotto with crumbled blue stilton instead of goats cheese and even cheddar cheese when that was all I had; you could add more goats cheese if you like your risottos really creamy or less if you think it may be a tad too rich, and for real cheese lovers even sprinkle the top with grated parmesan. Other leaves to add could be watercress or rocket, or a combination of them all. Toasted almonds stirred through is also an option instead of the pinenuts, or use both!. This really is a very simple but very moreish supper, so do make lots – it is also tasty cold. A simple salad is all it needs to accompany and Tom chose this one- – simply shave or very thinly slice 2 bulbs of trimmed fennel, 2 red chicory bulbs, a red onion and a whole lemon. Combine the 4 ingredients in a dish and drizzle with some extra virgin oil and decorate with the fronds from the fennel. If it wasn’t for all the cheese in the risotto then a packet of crumbled feta cheese is lovely over this dish, and is one of the salads I serve with shredded lamb.

I expect Tom’s return supper of choice will be roast beef, yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings despite it being summer, we’ll see……

Enjoy, Sue

Vegetarian catering – my favourite!

 

Meat Free February

(try saying it out loud)

My favourite type of cooking is vegetarian or even vegan, and I was in my element a little while ago when I was asked to cater for a large extended family who were all descending from London to their country house for the week. The brief I had was to prepare a 3 course meal for 25 guests for 8 consecutive nights. Nothing too fancy, just a home cooked supper that looked good and tasted delicious. All to be enjoyed after a day of swimming, croquet, fishing and playing tennis. As one does! But, whilst the host did not even want to know what I was cooking in advance, wanting a daily surprise and leaving it completely up to me (yes, I had catered for her before) – it had to be, as on previous occasions, strictly vegetarian, preferably vegan. Fantastic. My ideal job.

Over the next few months hopefully I may share some of the dishes I cooked for them but in the meantime here is the first night’s dish, which I will try and ‘downsize’ in quantities to suit the average family of 4.

Cidered Root Vegetable Hotpot.

Cut into equal pieces of about 2cm a medium swede, 3 or 4 turnips, 4 large carrots , a couple of onions and a couple of leeks. Now, sauté them in a large lidded pan for about 15 minutes in a little oil and butter until almost soft but not brown. Place them in an ovenproof dish.

Now you need to make a sauce for the veggies. In a saucepan, over a low heat mix a couple of tablespoons of flour with a little cider taken from a pint, until you have a smooth paste. Now gradually pour in the rest of the cider, bring to the boil and keep stirring. Add a couple of tablespoons of tomato passata and a dessertspoon of yeast extract.

Pour the sauce over the veggies. Now top the whole lot with thinly sliced par boiled potatoes. Brush them with a little oil and bake for a good hour until the veggies are cooked. I served the casserole in big bowls with thick chunks of home made granary bread – and it was devoured.

Alternatives? Of course there are….use any vegetables in season; cook them off properly in the pan first to save time in the oven, or the opposite – put them barely softened straight into the oven dish and just cook for much longer. Leave off the potato top and add chunks of potato into the casserole itself – sweet potatoes are particularly good like this. I have also made it using a good apple juice instead of the cider. You could even top the casserole with grated cheese just before serving.

Their starter that night was a mixed bean pate and a creamy stilton pate with warm melba toasts and for pudding they had an apple and blackberry crumble (by request after last year!) and a strawberry meringue terrine simply made by combining lots of crushed strawberries with whipped cream and meringues. All frozen in a large glass dish , then turned out and served drizzled with a strawberry coulis made by warming strawberries in a little orange juice, sweetened and sieved.   First night success.

Why not try them yourself, or ask me to cook them for you!!!!!

The next night they had my curries, which I can share next time.

Sue