Heartbeat

For those that know my friend Sara, little of this will come as a surprise.

How do you fancy catering my charity party? They’ll be about 100 people..

Sara has always hated running, so now she’s running the London Marathon. Admirably, this will be in support of The British Heart Foundation and in loving memory of her dad. You can read her inspirational story here.

To raise cold hard cash she decided to throw one big party.. One big hurrah; the party of the century to smash her fundraising target in one fell swoop.

100 people is a lot more than I’ve ever cooked for, but sure, how can I resist helping out a friend. The loan of her brother’s barn, many late nights of planning, and a troop of dedicated volunteers helped her to pull everything together for the big night.

So. What do you cook for 100 people? It had to be street food, gluten free, and without doubt a Food Revolution stunner – something nutritious, delicious and portable. Oh, and with a vegetarian option too..

Thankfully I had a special request for chilli, and between us we hatched a cunning plan to feed everyone without actually having any cooking facilities in said barn.

Oh, great news Alex, it’s been really popular and I’ve sold a few more tickets..

So.. now we have 250 hungry mouths to feed. I’m big enough to admit I was somewhat terrified. Not to worry though, as my 6-year-old daughter, Winter, crafted me this little beauty to keep me company:

mascot

Many, many hours of prep and we finally made it to crunch time with a beef chilli and a vegetable chilli to serve in wraps with sour cream, salad, chillies, cheese and fresh herbs.

Oh, not to forget the comedy of barbequing sweet potato in a panic.. I kid you not:

barbequed sweet potato slices

A couple of camping burners in the barn to keep it all piping hot and we were away.

Getting ready

What a party! I started serving at 9pm and it was 11:30pm before I had a moment to glance at my watch. I have a whole new respect for people that do this for a living.

The Heartbeat BHF party

Clich here for the Pulled Beef Brisket Chilli recipe, and slide over to Jamie Oliver’s website for the Smoky Vegetable Chilli recipe. Personally, I think that the Veggie Chilli tastes better, but as you can imagine, given the option almost everyone went straight for the beef until it sold out.

I’m super pleased to report that Sara raised a staggering £6,000 for the British Heart Foundation. Amazing. What a legend. Same again next year?

Heatbeat party bottles

Chilli con Jamie

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of cooking for a lovely group of school mums on their annual get-together in The Cotswolds.

A dear friend had asked if I’d like to cater for the event, and together we hatched a plan to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness for the Food Revolution and Elizabeth’s Footprint – [Natalia Spencer is walking the entire 6,000 mile coastline of the UK in aid of Bristol Children’s Hospital following the sudden and tragic loss of her beautiful 5-year-old daughter Elizabeth.] 

So, deep breath, what do you cook for fourteen…?

I needed something hearty, a little bit special, and above all something that wouldn’t be a logistical nightmare given Chipping Campden is a 40 minute drive from Cheltenham.

Delectable and transportable; it’s got to be a slow cooked chilli. It just so happens that I recently acquired a cast iron, 12 litre, Staub Cocotte (dutch oven)..

Let’s not reinvent the wheel here – I know a man who’s nailed this dish, so please do check out Jamie’s tried and tested recipe here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/chilli-con-jamie/

The only tweaks I made were to scale up the quantities to make it go a bit further. I used 3kg of brisket, 5 cans of tomatoes, 750ml fresh coffee and 3 tins of kidney beans etc.

3kg beef brisket

Trimming up the beef takes a little time but once it’s all in the pot you can pretty much sit back and leave it alone for a few hours. If you’re interested, I chose to use a combination of Ancho and Pasilla chillies which were rehydrated in strong coffee.

Ancho and Pasilla chillies

I wrapped a couple of towels around my impractically heavy cast iron pot and carefully stowed my precious cargo in the passenger footwell.

Seeing a rainbow over Chipping Campden as I made my way down the quiet country lanes really made my day. I had to stop the car and take a moment to fully appreciate the world around me, basking in the horizontal early evening sunlight and cherishing every aspect of the quiet, rolling countryside. I wish I could have captured it for you Natalia.

I want to extend a huge, huge thank you to all you lovely ladies for donating a whopping £200 to Elizabeth’s Footprint – I’m so pleased you enjoyed your dinner :o)

Chilli con carne

Risotto for Little M

Little M’s Legacy supports Severn Freewheelers (Blood Bikes) and Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research charities. Madison, a colleague’s granddaughter, was just 2 years old when she tragically lost her fight against Leukaemia.

My contribution to Little M’s Legacy was to donate a risotto cooking class and dinner to their charity auction. I hope to also raise awareness; there’s fantastic work being done out there to support present-day treatments, and incredible research to help combat blood cancer in the future.

I want to say a big thank you to the generous couple with the winning bid, I hope you enjoyed your dining experience!

Here’s my recipe for making a beautiful Pea & Mint Risotto for future reference:

Risotto ingredients

 

Ingredients:

(4 people)

  • 60g Butter
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 stick Celery, finely diced
  • 1 Onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
  • 400g Risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
  • 1 glass White Wine – optional
  • 1.5L Stock (Chicken or Vegetable), hot
  • 100g Peas (fresh or frozen)
  • Fresh Mint, small bunch, finely sliced
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra for garnish
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Lemon
  • Pangrattato (crispy breadcrumbs) – optional
  • Pea shoots/micro herbs/rocket – optional

Method:

I’m going to start by stressing that making a good risotto is all about understanding the look, feel and taste as you cook it; recipes are merely guides and risotto is probably the exemplar of that fact.

Generally, you can make a basic white risotto (risotto bianco) and then flavour it in numerous ways towards the end. The quality of your stock will make a big difference to this recipe.

Using the above ingredients list as your guide, start by gently sweating down your ‘Soffritto’ of finely diced onion, celery and garlic over a low heat for a few minutes with 30g of butter and a swig of olive oil. The vegetables want to be softened, but not coloured.

Add the rice and stir it around for a few minutes until all of the grains are nicely coated and starting to turn translucent.

Add the wine, increase the heat to medium and allow it to cook away before adding your first ladle of hot stock.

As each ladleful of stock is absorbed by the rice, add another, stirring as you go to help the grains cook evenly and release their starch.

Notice how the rice moves in the pan when you stir it and the volume increases. After you’ve added about two thirds of your stock (about 20 minutes), taste the rice; you want the rice to still have some bite to it but not be chalky. Your judgement is critical from this point on, so keep tasting a little rice every few minutes and observing how it looks and moves. You may not use all the stock, and if you run out, just add a little hot water.

You don’t want to overcook the peas, so add them and the fresh mint just before the rice is ready. Once you’re happy with the texture, stir in the Parmesan cheese and 30g of butter. Place a lid over the pan, take it off the heat and allow your risotto to rest for a few minutes.

Serve your risotto with your favourite flourishes such as a sprinkle of Pangrattato, shavings of Parmesan, a squeeze of lemon, twists of Black Pepper, a drizzle of Olive Oil, Fresh Pea shoots, Rocket or Micro Herbs etc.

This dish would also work wonderfully adorned with a little crispy bacon or Pancetta.

Pea & Mint Risotto

I know what I’m having for dinner..

Elizabeth’s Footprint

Last week my wife and I joined Natalia Spencer on her Walk of Love. We’re linked through St James’ Primary School in Cheltenham. Natalia has given herself an enormous challenge; She’s walking the entire 6,000 mile coastline of the UK…

Since starting back in February, she’s completed over 1,000 miles, walking relentlessly with just one day of rest each week.

She has merely her rucksack, and the kindness of others to support her.

It may sound hard, but to her, it’s nothing compared to dealing with the raw grief of losing her 5-year-old daughter Elizabeth.

I’ve never met a more determined and truly inspirational person in my life. As I struggled to drag my body up the last hill on our 7 hour walk from Pendine to Tenby, she explained that she doesn’t walk with her legs, she walks with her mind.

Natalia is aiming to raise £100,000 for the Bristol Children’s Hospital, who’s doctors battled in vein to save Elizabeth for 18 long days last December. She’s bringing something positive from her loss, and moving forward one step at a time.

I applaud her mighty efforts to help the lives of others, and wish her godspeed on her year-long venture.

Please read her story, follow her progress on Facebook and Twitter, raise awareness and help in any way that you can.

Supporting her in the best way I know how to, we had the pleasure of providing sustenance in the form of a few square meals. We hope to join you again soon Natalia. X

 

To donate to go https://www.justgiving.com/Natalia-Spencer/ or text  ELIF55 £2/£5/£10 to 70070