Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Musings over the menu for March 30th Anniversary Supper club

Pot au Feu

Many years ago , I  ambitiously attempted Bollito Misto (Boiled Mixed)  for a New years banquet in our house at West Preston Street in Edinburgh. I love what I had heard about the french new year where course after course of food is served throughout the evening. Food 'with'  wine  instead  of just drinking alcohol which seemed to me to be the main idea of celebrating new year in Scotland! I can't remember much about the meal apart from getting help as I was out of my depth at the time (bless the younger me though for trying). I do remember everyone still drank buckets of wine and fell out. Ah memories! You can't change hundreds of years of tradition I suppose. The French version is called Pot au Feu (Boiled Beef) which I think is a little simpler in style though I have yet to trawl many different recipes to decide on the best  recipe though I have a feeling it will be based mostly Julia Child's  Potee Normande with a few bits of tinkering here and there. I am thinking about making this one of the main courses for the anniversary supper club rumoured to be on Friday the 30th of March. You can book now before everyone else if you like.  It is made up mainly of Beef plus a variety of other meats such as pork, chicken, sausage  (have seen a recipe with calf's head just ha ha, I will do that yet!) and vegetables carefully simmered for different lengths of  times over a long  period (5-7 hours)  and served with the vegetables with various  sauces.  The French and Italian sauces are broadly similar but I may  prefer the italian versions such as frutta di mostarda (fruit preserved in wine and mustard syrup) or an anchovy based paste  to some of the French options as they just seem more gutsy,  robust and complimentary to the meats. It's not an especially pretty dish to look  with the crude cuts of vegetables and shed loads of meat  but with the right cooking,  it is going to taste amazing. In Mastering the Art of French Cooking , they say
"Here is the sumptious family-style boiled dinner which will serve 12 or more, and always makes a great hit with the guests. It is brought to the table in its pan looking for all the world like a plain pot-au-feu. The host starts the proceedings as usual by spearing out the beef and placing it on a dish. Then he finds a sausage, and after that a big piece of pork. Finally, to wild acclaim, he brings out a chicken".

This kind of serving food as a performance really appeals to me though I am not sure if I would be able to pull that off. I would like to try. We shall see. It depends on the number of guests. Any more than twelve... but I just love the idea behind this food as it is about more than just eating it. It is the whole ritual around cooking and eventually serving it that seems really meaningful to me.

More  research to do which I may blog about if I get time and if I decide to do it. The other dish I am going to do is a Lobster Bisque. I will probably do it as an amuse bouche in expresso  cups served with little croutons (I so love the 'everything in miniature' aspect to this delightful invention) because, to be frank , I can't afford to do anything else at £20 a head. This soup is ideal for this  because of the intensity of flavour which is one key element  to little mouthfuls of food. Bottom line,   I really just want an excuse to put this Salvador Dali image into this blog because I  love it.

Lobster Bisque Amuse Bouche

Saturday, 28 January 2012

I Love Cakes

Finally, I am getting around to talking about one of my  favourite ways of spending my time, making cakes. This,I may add, also makes my family happy and I do feel home made cakes knock the pants off  supermakerket bought ones. For one thing, I know what's in them and I don't have to worry about my child bouncing off walls as a result of additives.  I can't really recall when I started loving making cakes. I have , over the years, built up a repertoire and thought I would include three of  the recipes of some that have stuck and that I produce again and again. I will give you the recipes I work from though I do tend vary the quantities a bit here and there i.e. an extra egg to make it more moist or more of something  to strenthen the flavour etc as I get to know the recipe better even though told I am counselled to stick to the recipe with cakes more than anything. Though I would emphasize I don't do that with new recipes.It's like learning the rules before I break them. In that way, I am not one of these cooks who can just get a few ingredients and throw them all together without even consulting a recipe and ta ta , masterchef! I am,  I confess,  a recipe addict. I check the recipe even when I have cooked something loads of times. Also,  you can read of ton of different recipes for supposedly the same dish and learn new tricks to improve your favourite dish. However with cakes sometimes, I feel a bit like a charlatan taking credit for them. All I do is throw the ingredients together and stick the oven on. I am told by friends, as they take mouthful of cake,  that cake-making is a talent. Oh ok , if you insist. It is always nice to think one has some talent since  on reflection, cooking is the only thing I have ever been particularly good at.

Tart Au Citron

I have definitely earned the 'I know how to make Tart au Citron'  t- shirt. I have practised and practised this one and spend my life trying to improve  my pastry. Now I do take credit for good pastry. That is a talent and getting a compliment for my pastry is the one thing that makes me brim with pride. It would be an added plus if I got a new best friend who was also a pastry chef. So many different methods to choose from. I am gettng there. Having said that I got totally sick of the taste of sweet pastry when making a large quantity for a catering event. The trick which you may be aware is to make it the filling night before. This ensure a wonderfully tarte taste.


Sweet Pastry
350g plain flour
pinch salt
150g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
2 eggs beaten

4 eggs
2 egg yolks
275g castor sugar
190 ml double cream
250ml lemon juice
finely grated zest of 3 lemons

1) Sift flour on to a work surface and make a well, add butter and work with fingertips and thumb till very soft (I  don't this, I keep it slighlty colder and use a pastry scraper to chop the butter in), add sugar and mix, add eggs to butter and mix and incorporate the flour. Everybody has their own way of doing this , I use the fraisage technique where you use the palm of your  hand to incorporate the butter then bring to a ball , knead a few times, and pop in the fridge in clingfilm to rest.
2) Preheat oven to 190c and blind bake pastry for 10 mins  in a 23cm round loose-based fluted cake tin
3) To make the filling, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Add the cream, then the lemon juice and zest whisking all the time. As I said, you could leave overnight to improve the flavour
4) Reduce oven to 150c, put tray on baking sheet and carefully fill. Return to oven for 35-40 mins or until set. Cool before serving.

Coconut Cake

 I am always getting the words jumbled when I type this and I am sure I will end up putting the rude version on one of my menus!  This cake is from Delia Smith and is a complete star. The combination of the fresh coconut (nearly did it again!) and marscapone and fromage fresh makes it taste like you have a very tasty piece of ice in your mouth. Very popular at my supper clubs. I created a friand version at my catering event in town before christmas, photograph above. I think there is scope to creat a really tall one for a wedding.


For the Cake
75g finely grated coconut (I always use more than reccomended)
175g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
175g very soft bvutter
175 golden castor sugar (i usually just use normal)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

For the coconut frosting

4o g freshly grated coconut
250 g marscapone
200ml fromage frais
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 dessertspoon of castor sugar

For the topping
50g coasrly grated coconut (I use tons)

Use 2 8 inch (20cm) cake tins 1.5 inches (4 cm deep)  and pre-heat the oven to 170c

1) First thing is put coconut in a polythene bag and break up with a hammer (or get your husband to do it, oh sorry that's just me) and remove the outer shell. Then use a peeler to peel off the inner shell. Now Delia doesn't mention that this whole process is a total pain in the arse and your hands end up feeling arthritic at the end of it. I have learned the hard way and brace myself or try to find an unsuspecting victim to help me. Then grate preferably in a food processor  because if you haven't cut yourself peeling the inner skin off, you will catch it on the grater.

2) The cake is basically a victoria sponge with coconut in it. Sieve flour high etc and this is a good bit , just add all the other ingredients and go in with an electric whisk until smooth. If a little stiff, add some water until it drops off the spoon. I feel that this method minimizes the chance of the cake rising as much as it could. I am a big fan of the old fashioned method.  However, by the time you have mucked around with the coconut, you just don't care anymore and once you put the two halfs together and the topping, it is fine. Now pop in the oven for 30-35 mins until a skewar comes out clear. Leave in the tin for 5 mins then cool on a wire cooling rack until cold.

3) To make the frosting whisk together all the ingredients. Put a layer on each half with a palate knive then sandwhich them together. Then cover the exterior of the cake with the frosting. It's a bit of a messy job and you just have to make sure the frosting cover the whole cake so the coconut topping will stick. Finally cover the cake with the fresh coconut (as I said I always make sure I have tons) . Now all you have to do is find a beautiful cake stand to put it on and pop it in the fridge to chill until you serve it to your stupendously impressed guests.


I started making friands a few years ago when I stumbled on a recipe in an unlikely book I had purchased dead cheap from a book club at work. I don't know why I like them so much, I just do. My freezer is full of them and my son regularly takes them to school for lunch. Other people like them too. The classic recipe includes egg whites, ground almonds, melted butter, icing sugar and a little flour then maybe a filling of your choice. There is no end to fillings from blueberry to  chocolate, lemon drizzle, fig or combinations of whatever you like. I have found  a huge variation in the recipes  and I could definitely fill a book telling you about them. There's a thought, however that would require focus and I am easily distracted. They can be eaten as a little cake to have with coffee or served as a dessert with a dollop of ice cream and soft fruit . They originated  in France and were called financiers to emulate  little rectangular gold bars. Friands as they are also known now are oval shaped as above  (you even get round ones partly cause the oval shaped tins are hard to find here I suspect) and have been championed by Australians and New Zealanders. Apparently, they can be found piled high in beach bars etc and are widely eaten and as popular over there as croissants in France or cup cakes here. I have an idea to start selling them commerically this year on a small scale of course and see how it goes. 'Lets make Friands' is my working title, my hubbie thinks it's a rubbish name? Everyone has pretty much loved them so we shall see. And another great thing about friands is they are a perfect way to use up any egg whites you may have. I just pop them in the freezer and have a friand-making day every so often when they start to overcrowd my freezer. On the flip side, if you are making friands and end up with egg yolks, you can make some ice cream which go perfectly with friands.  Anyway, I feel I may be over-selling them to you now so  here is the basic recipe.  As I said above , the friand oval shaped tin are hard to find and in fact the individual tins are a real muck about . I invested in an 18 hole silicone tin which I got imported from France and costs me thirty five quid! I know!  So if you would like to kick start my business  you are welcome to order them from me!

Recipe- Almond Friands
160 g unsalted butter
90g ground almonds
40g plain flour sifted
165 icing sugar
5 egg whites
icing to dust

Preheat oven 210 c grease 125ml friand tins or muffin ones will do
1) Melt the butter in a small suacepan until butter deep golden, strain and set aside to cool until lukewarm
2) Sift flour and icing sugar into a bowl and if you can still see through the cloud this creates, add the ground almonds
3) Seperate egg whites and mix with a fork lightly until just combined. Add the butter to the flour mixture with the egg whites. Mix gently again until just combined
4) Spoon into friand tins until three quarters full. Pop in oven for 10 mins then reduce heat to 180c and cook for another 5 minutes. They are ready when squewer comes out clean and when the batter has shrunk from the sides of the tin. Again, I find this vaires with each batch. Remove and cool. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Honey Wild 'Pop Up' in Edinburgh Friday 17th February 2012

Here is the proposed menu for the first pop up in Edinburgh. Two regular guests of my supper club in the Borders have offered  their house in Morningside as a Honey Wild location which is true to the spirit of the whole supper club movement.   Over half of the guests to last years' supper clubs travelled up from Edinburgh. In December, I did my first Christmas Canapes Christmas party in penthouse suites for a blue chip company. This was a great success and gave me an appetite for coming into the city to do more. I am very happy to be able to offer this ;'pop' up option in the city.
To celebrate Edinburgh's long love affair with this oysters,  I am going to kick start the evening,  by serving them raw with a Bloody Mary and a Virgin Mary Salsa. For the main courses  I have been invited by my hosts  to include  my favourite main courses  from last year's suppers. I am going to choose a couple of classic dishes which probably best represents the kind of food I like to  cook. Firstly Osso Bucco using shin of beef which is a pleasure to cook and  serve and was a big hit at October's  supper with the meat literally falling off the bone and going very nicely with the traditional Milanese Risotto. Secondly I will cook Pan Fried Sea Bass Fillets with Beurre Blanc. I love the freshness and the simplicity of this dish. As ever , if you can't or won't eat the options or have specific requirements, I am happy to discuss this with you and come up with something that will suit. Actually, I quite enjoyed this part of the food last year. It surprised me how  incredibly  grateful and delighted people were that time was taken and they didn't have to feel the usual 'nuisance' that they tell me they had learned to expect when eating out.   I would like to think this flexibility is a defining feature of Honey Wild and supper clubs in general. So here it is. I hope you like it!


Amuse Bouche

Carrot Puree & Carroway Seeds with Goats Cheese served with Pitta Triangles

Nicoise Crumble

Choice of Starter

Fresh Oysters served with a Bloody (Virgin)  Mary  Salsa

Fresh Tagliatelle served with Roasted Red Pepper, Black Olives & Capers with Pesto

Served with Fresh Home Made White and Brown  rolls

Palate Cleanser

Green Apple & Honey Sorbet

Choice of Main Course

Beef Osso Bucco served with Milanese Risotto

Pan Fried Sea Bass Fillets with a  Beurre Blanc Sauce Served with New Potatoes

Both served with Green Vegetable Platters

Choice of Dessert

Treacle Tart

Orange Blossom Cake

Strawberries with Basil & Limoncello


To Finish

Fresh Coffee & Petit Fours

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Sunday, 22 January 2012

A year in supper clubs

It will be Honey Wild's anniversary on March 26th. I have been reflecting on what motivated me to start the supper club last year. I had been coming back to cooking on and off for years and had done a couple of personal chef jobs  in the Borders for prestigious clients encouraged by my lovely friend, Caroline McNairn. As an artist, Caroline believed that everyone should pursue that side of themselves and totally backed my dream to eventually be able to live through my food and cooking. This was  refreshing  in my world where common sense invariably prevailed.  I will always cherish the memory of  stepping out of the real world and visiting  her cottage tucked away up the hill at  Hollylee to sip coffee with her & Hugh and  talk about our hopes and dreams which we resolutely refused to give up on. One evening a couple of years ago, Caroline  arrived at our house for dinner and declared that she had found the name to hang my dream on.  With impressive sweeping strokes befitting an artist (my writing is awful) , she wrote:

Honey Wild and Manna Dew

on a piece of paper and handed it to me. She then pulled a small book out of her bag turned to the correct page and read out loud the poem "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" by John Keats. When she had finished she placed the book on the table , took her glasses off and said  with  laughing eyes "Anyone can come up with Wild Honey but it takes a poet to come up with  Honey Wild".   Her inspiration came from over twenty years ago when I had tried to start a catering business called Manna inspired by working on various events while working at a gallery in  Edinburgh.  For easily the maddest year of my life, I worked as an "Administrator" at the 369 Gallery, a Bohemian contemporary and frankly sometimes ridiculous  art gallery that had broken away from the Scottish Arts Council and was trying to go it alone. It didn't help that none of us were very mature and ran the gallery as if at one long boozy night out. It was doomed to failure but perhaps looking back now that doesn't really matter. It was the  fingers up to the SAC at the time. Bizarrely,  I don't remember doing a  single administrative task.  I spent most of the time holding off creditors, tripping over drunk exhibiting artists from the Eastern Europe, conflicting with so- called colleagues and hosting several  banquet style events  because no-one else would do them and we had already been paid!  This was where my interest in food and feeding people as a celebration   was born and it has stayed with me ever since.  At that time, I was learning to cook but was still pretty rubbish at it.  However , my friend Annie  was and still is a fantastic cook, a natural (I have worked hard to get here, she just seemed to have the gift).   it was the festival of 1992 that we did about three  banquets together for the Independant, The BBC & John Smith, the nearly prime minister.  We even did a gallery auction hosted by Robbie Coltrane. I can never stop myself  telling my eye rolling 7 year old that I have met Hagrid. "Whatever mum"!  That reminds me Caroline once  told me that she was once Robbie's girlfriend and that she dumped him by leaving him a note, priceless and I didn't say "Whatever Caroline". Back to the banquets. We had just 48 hours, £300 and not a clue what we were doing.  We were going for decadent, sumptious with food presented as though it were  a work of art in itself. We ran around town buying food from Valvona, Argyle Place and Victor Hugo. We hired crockery, crystal glasses, white linen  etc . I am amazed it didn't get nicked although it did takes several hours to locate it all the next day when the gallery resembled a war zone. We threw red velvet drapes over a long banqueting table with an expensive  beautiful Russian bowl as the centrepiece with Langoustines and Samphire spilling out  over the top. We filled large silver platters of marinated vegetables , tray upon tray of smoked salmon, salamis, parma ham, stuffed eggs & tomatoes, huge bowls of salad and an array of sumptious desserts. We dressed in our best party frocks and suits and served oysters and  champagne to guests as they arrived.  It was  opulant, decadent,  elegant and over the top and we loved it. It was Babettes Feast! The gallery setting was perfect with brick walls and black cast iron gates on the windows . with tall gold candelabras  burning evocotively in the corners of the room . They were inspired stunning events partly, I think, because they were impromptu. We even had a fireworks display at one event and I am surprised we didn't burn the gallery down years before it actually happened. Not long after that summer , I was sacked for being a crap administrator. Perhaps my job title should have been Events Organiser?  Ironically and after a fashion, I have become quite a good administrator though perhaps if I had stayed crap , I would now be a  full time foodie . I always say that no-one ever says " When I grow up, I want to be an administrator".Anyway, that is how the name came about though I shortened it to Honey Wild as the Manna Dew was too much of a mouthful. And I suppose it also explains essentially how I got here over 20 years later though obviously  other things have happened in between.

Here is the sad part.  Caroline died of  cervical cancer in September 2010, .It was really  unfair and all those things.We became good friends when she moved back to the Borders a few years ago and is my favourite artist by a mile with her paintings full of colour, optomisim and deeply complex ideas. I will never tire looking at them which is just as well as we acquired a few over the years. 

 In March 2011, I decided I would try a supper club which I had read about.and they sounded fun and something I could do alongside my other commitments. It also offered possibilities of satisfying my erstwhile craving to present food in a lovely setting. We converted an old mill lodge and have an unreasonably grand living room. The room looks amazing set up as a pop up dining area, candlelit  and flooded with my mother's stunning flower arrangements.The first supper  was more like a party with a good number of friends and family present. I read a verse from the poem and dedicated it to Caroline who I feel has been a big influence and has always encouraged me to keep going no matter what. Since the first, we have had well over 150 guests, some repeats and lots of new people. Everyone has been lovely and I can say truly 90% of guests (it isn't for everyone)  have loved the whole set up which is different from a restaurant. Guests who have never met  speak to each other, come into the kitchen to talk to us on the way to the bathroom, I often come and sit with the guests later on, the service isn't as professional as a restaurant and actually I am ok with that though we do aim to get the food out hot  etc. The suppers are alot of work. I produce too much .food for too little money. I just can't help myself. I spend hours trawling through recipes to create the right menu. It is a great excuse to try out amuse bouche such as ceviche, Nicoise Crumbe, Little Tarlets  which I love doing but what a fiddle they are! ,  Starters have included Beetroot & Apple Soup,Creamy Scallops with Pancetta, Moules Mariniere, Chestnut Soup . Guests have loved my palate cleansers to include Lime Sorbet with Mint, Green Apple & Honey Sorbet.   Main courses have included Venison Casserole, Osso Bucco, Pan Fried Pheasant , Cassoulet, Sea Bass, Butternut Squash Risotto . I love making desserts and like to think I have managed to impress the guests in some part with my cakes, pastry, ice creams  and yes choccy mousse! I am often totally out of my comfort zone as I feel I have to produce some food to order much to the stress of everyone in the kitchen. So far I have delivered but possibly at some cost to me and my helpers.  It is true my family help me  as well as some paid staff and I owe them a debt of gratitude which I am pretty sure I have failed miserably to convey.  I do prepare everything I can from scratch  (and I mean everything, rolls, pasta, stocks, ice creams, sorbet etc)   but that is nothing if I don't prepare it 'well' from scratch. Luckily, I am told I do not disappoint  and whilst the little doubting voice in my head never completely goes away, the suppers have finally made me accept at some level anyway that 

I do know how to cook.

And for me that feels really good.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Why I love Food and cooking

Wow what a time I have had over christmas. I don't want to bore you but it included a busy time up to christmas with catering, a brutal eye infection which made cooking difficult to impossible, My sister had a stroke and she lives in Greece so I had to fly over there and for a while we were not sure how well she would do. She is fine, hurrah and making a great recovery though she is planning to sue Greece for giving her a stroke. Difficult times. My body then decided to cave in and I fainted in my hotel room and had a kind of a seizure which I am prone to ( hopefully they will work out why this times as it is jolly unpleasant when it happens) and ended up (again) in an ambulance tearing through the streets of Patras to the hospital from hell with an A&E department to outstrip any soap on TV. My poor mother now torn between nursing my sister in a hospital on one side of the town and me on the other. As ever, my life flashes before me and there is a moment if I wander whether I will make it through this time which melodramatic or not is how these episodes make me feel. Three days in a hopsital then a flight back home, Home sweet home. I love my home, my family and my cooking. It is a week later, my eye has cleared up, mentally I am in one piece and I am contemplating a small run (just a small one honest) and once again  food, cooking and supper clubs. Actually I decided to throw together some chocolate mousse for dessert the other night while I hovered over my very experienced good cook friend and criticised her every move ( in the nicest possible way!). She got the last laugh as my mousse turned out spectularly badly. I had added the egg yolks too quickly. Worse still, I managed this twice! I still haven't got over the horror of this. At one of my supper clubs , I threw together about twenty near perfect mousses goddamit.  Clearly I was not ready to return to cooking last week. It also reminded me that one can never be too casual  about cooking. Every task , for me anyway,  has to be approached with the right attitude or it stands a good chance of going wrong. Nigella Lawson says in one of her books " What I have discovered , after a lifetime of cooking, is that anything which holds true in the kitchen , is just as true out of the kitchen"  I buy into that and I am not even really sure why, it just feels absolutely true! Cooking  & food for me is just a reflection of life, full of infinite possibilities, a port in a storm and very very tasty! Thinking what to cook that evening, if I am not working or running around is one of my first thoughts of the day. It is part of the meaning of life, of existence and I am happy today that whatever real or imagined fears I have about living, food and cooking is one of life's joys. On that note, I am going to go off and look at some recipes with a fresh coffee, warmed milk and perhaps a slice of Lemon Drizzle cake. I am still in recovery after all. Karen 

Monday, 2 January 2012

Honey Wild Christmas Party Menu for Client , Caliberi Interactive on the 9th December 2011

Amuse Bouche

Nicoise Crumble with Goats Cheese & Cream Verrine

Dill Smoked  Trout  with Avocado Mousse &  Crème Fraiche  Verrine

Savoury Tartlets; Tiny Sun Dried Tomato with Basil, Wild Mushroom Compote with Thyme Jalapeno & Onion*, Caramelized Red Onion , Tarragon & Goats Cheese


Little Bowls of Chestnut Soup

Seared Scallops with Boudin Noir & Apple Puree

Breast of Pheasant with Wild Mushroom Compote & Honey Wild Cranberry Relish on Fresh Mini rolls

Pigs in Blankets

Palate Cleanser

Apple & Honey Wild  Sorbet

Fork Food

Beef Carbonnade

Chicken Fricasse

Fresh Tagliatelli with Gorgonzola, Walnuts, Spring Onions & Cream


Strawberries with Basil &  Limoncello  

Fresh Coconut Friand Mountain

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Stem Ginger Ice Cream


To Finish

 Petit Fours

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Honey Wild Christmas Hamper

This year I experimented by making Christmas hampers for my family and select friends . They were a great success. I kept the presentation simple using greaseproof paper and garden string to wrap the cakes and simple sterilised glass jars for the relishes. I also added othet little personal touches for example , an extract from the poem, "La Belle Dame Sanse Merci" by John Keats where the name Honey Wild comes from and a little set of stunning relish dishes. The feedback was that it was lovely to get such a personalised gift as everything in the hamper was made by me (OK I admit I am not a potter in my spare time). I am now looking into putting more hampers together to perhaps sell with the emphasis being on home made products only. Feedback would be welcome.

Honey Wild Christmas Hamper

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Sticky Gingerbread Cake

Christmas Tea Loaf

Cranberry Relish

Carrot & Almond Relish

Shallots in Balsamic Vinegar

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Petit Fours

Set of Relish Dishes

Bon Appetit!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year and thanks for all the support for Honey Wild in 2011. Looking forward to 2012 where the possibilities include running more supper clubs, developing the catering side of things, blogging, cooking and producing some new Honey Wild products but most of all I will keep researching, cooking & serving fab food to celebrate the joy of life! Bon Appetit!