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Announcing Final Supperclub Menu for 6 October Supperclub!


6 October 2013



Rosemary Bellini with Pan Fried Gnocchi and a Sticky Fig and Pepper Caponata


Stuffed Artichoke Heart


Sweet Potato Agnolotti with Sage


Cauliflower Risotto served with Parmesan Crumbs


Braised Pig’s Cheek in Masala OR  Aubergine Stack

 served Mushroom Ragu, Cavolo Nero and, Peasant Bean Stew and garnished with a crisp of Pig’s Ear or Aubergine


November American taster: French Laundry Oreos Cookies


Chestnut and Quince Tart served with a Chocolate Praline Ice-cream and a Chestnut Hazelnut Macaron garnished with a Marron Glacé


Walnut and Sour Cherry Nougatine,  Black Grape and White Peach Pastille, Balsamic Vinegar Chocolate Truffle



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I have also started trading under the name Cooksmith. Read on to find out about my most recent trading activities!

Today is Saturday 14 September and a most momentous occasion has happened. I held my first stall and sold my first product to a person who was not a member of my family or a friend!  Yes it is true that I’ve been running a supperclub for a few months and have incredibly managed to attract guests who are similarly unknown to me before the evening but supperclubs are by their nature a non-commercial activity. So this is a momentous occasion by virtue of having taken my first step towards actually making a living from pursuing the thing that I want to do. (In theory of course, given that I abysmally failed to break even today).

When I read about cronuts they seemed like such a phenominally wonderful idea! I love croissants. Like really love croissants. Possibly in quite a disgusting way – there have been days when I’ve eaten nothing but croissants all day and I’ve been reduced to nibbling croissants under the desk at lunchtime so not to attract my work collegues’ disbelief/pity/concern.

I also made croissants at the Ashburton school where I recently completed my professional skills cookery course – and unsurprisingly given my prelove of croissants – it was a highlight of the whole course. So having been waiting patiently to be inspired to make something for some stall that I might have someday it seemed like my moment had come! In fact, I speak fresh from having sold my (thirty three) cronuts and so indeed I feel like I’ve had a good moment!

Preparations making the croissant dough started early and I had some initial failures and some rather too frank feedback from friends. But it was all for a good cause I guess, and in the end I tinkered with the croissant dough (mainly by giving it 6 turns i.e. more laminations rather than the usual 3 turns) and got a nice light and layered dough.


Despite what a lot of online recipes say, I find that the hotter the oil for deepfrying the oil (around 190C) is necessary if you don’t want the cronut to taste greasy – provided you give the shaped cronuts enough time to prove then the hotter oil will still cook the dough before the outside colours too deeply.

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Anyway, finally on Market Day at Marylebone Parish Church grounds, I made three flavours (1) Ham and Cheese, (2) Blueberry and Coffee and (3) Raspberry and Hazelnut. Savoury works best it seems. Although they all sold out in the end, the Ham and Cheese cronut raced to the finish well ahead of the rest.


Also I had lots of help today with setting up and manning the stall – and I couldn’t have done without my Dad, my aunty, Terry, Freddie and James and all my friends who turned up today and frankly took me a good way towards me selling out at the end of the day. Thanks guys!


The only sad thing about the whole occasion is that after weeks of triallng croissant dough, preparing it and tasting the products including at 4am this morning when I was frying today’s batch of cronuts – the thought of eating a croissant gives me no pleasure (although I think I’m probably resilient enough for this not to be a permanent side effect…)


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Announcing Italian Supperclub for Sunday 6 October

The next supperclub will be on Sunday 6 October. A frequent comment that I got on the feedback forms that I gave out at the end of the September supperclub was that ideally the evening should be held on a Saturday.  Unfortunately at this point I can’t practically hold the evening on a Saturday because I need the Saturday for the food preparations. However I will continue to consider whether it might at some point be feasible to hold the event on a Saturday. In the meantime, the supperclub will continue to be held on a Sunday with an earlier start time of 6pm.


There are just 10 spaces available and a maximum allocation of three tickets per person! There is a suggested donation £30 and BYO (I’m more than happy as always, to give suggestions for those that care about what wine to pair up the food with).

 Please contact me on to make any reservations.

Proposed October menu is as follows:


Crisped Artichoke Heart filled with Broad Bean and Mint Stuffing


Suckling Pig’s Cheek, slow braised in Masala  – or –  Slow roasted Garden Tomato filled with a Sorrel and Breadcrumb Gratin

served with a soft Mushroom Polenta, Cavelo Nero and a Roast Garlic Puree


Quince and Chestnut Tart served with a Cobnut Praline Ice Cream garnished with homemade Marron Glacés

An aperitif and extra intermediary courses will be served on the night, so please let me know about any dietary issues or allergies.

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Mexican supperclub preparations

Preparation for this month’s supperclub have been so much more stress-free than last month. Almost too stress-free. I was reduced to having a few sleepless nights about how unstressed I was and whether this spelt trouble or not…

Well, maybe I was a little stressed about the food.. Mexican food is truly out of my comfort zone. I’ve eaten lovely Mexican food in Mexico and so-so Mexican food in the UK but I didn’t want to recreate any of that. What I wanted my night to be about – was a chance to use the exciting flavours of the warmer climes mixed in with the traditional French techniques of cooking associated with “fine dining”. Which is all fine in theory – except- I didn’t really have recipes for that kind of thing so I was taking a punt on my ability to cobble something together. Cobble something outstandingly delicious and refined together. Actually… thinking back… I was pretty damn nervous.

I did raid the bookshelf for a few things that I has tried and loved before. Tom Aiken’s vanilla and pink peppercorn cerviche. A variation on Delia’s chickpea and coriander soup. I messed around with Denis Cotter’s recipes on chard dolmas (re-invented as chard tamales) and his cashew nut loaf which I baked as mini muffins and topped with cumin sour cream. But I hadn’t made some of these things before and I was amending the recipes of the rest so with a few of July’s diners returning to the September Supperclub I couldn’t help but worry if it wouldn’t be disappointing for them in comparison…

The Trials and the Tribulations:

First up, the cashew nut muffins were a bit of a headache. Now, I’ve never made nut loaf before and I’m sure Dennis Cotter’s recipe was perfect for nut loaf (as he’s never failed me thus far) but the recipe created a batter that was really far too stodgy to make decent muffins so after (a) 6 incremental additions of extra egg, (b) 6 practice bakes of tester muffins, and (c) 6 eaten muffins, I finally had a mix I was happy with.


Aren’t the muffins adorable! And mini too, which you can’t see but they were! Adorably mini.  (You’ll have to exclude the pictures however – they were  all taken on my camera phone and there ain’t no camera phone out there that can do justice to the Mexican spice fest laid out that evening – biased self-promotion aside).

Next up doughnuts: I’ve never made yeasted doughnuts at home. I’ve made a few batches in restaurants wehere I’ve been doing work experience and minus a decent kitchen aid (or even doughhooks that actually fit into the hand mixer) I’m left with a strong relucatance of trying to make and knead what is a supremely sticky and wet doughnut dough. And then I found Paul Ainsworth’s recipe on the internet which basically involved deep frying frozen choux mix and with this recipe to hand – on I forged…

This supperclub preparation was full of “testers”. It seems like the first supperclub I held had exhausted my repertoire of “posh” recipes and I found myself amending half a dozen found recipes that I hadn’t used before and so in the weeks coming upto the supperclub I was practicing different sorbets and ice-creams, the rice pudding, the savoury muffins, the doughnuts. Wow those doughnuts were a pain. I couldn’t make them work from frozen, they would cook on the outside but not the inside so many attempts later I found they worked best if you didn’t freeze them but you partially prebaked them (like profiterols) and then deep-fried them.


The doughnuts had to all be done on the morning of the supperclub for freshness and the coriander chutney was piped into the doughnuts just moments before serving. Really. How did I manage not to stress about this!

The main dish led the charge for being the most vexatious dish on the menu. Stuffing slow cooked lamb with a spicy chicken mousse seems good on paper. I think it sounds positively tasty on paper actually. But the move from “fancy menu item” to reality required nerves of steel and steady hands to roll the mess that was the stuffed lamb, into a clingfilmed sausage ballotine to be poached in hot water. I do actually have a picture of the mess that was the pre-ballotined stuffed lamb but I won’t test your credulity and share that photo. All that needs to be said for any keen ballotiners out there, is – persist. Against all reasonable belief, once poached the clingfilmed lamb will actually hold its shape. An unsolvable mystery of life.

Clingfilmed lamb

So much more to say but I’m limiting my wordcount to items that I have pictures of. And we are left with a really quite random picture of some peppers laid out on a tray for roasting.


Roasting the peppers was really quite a last minute thought but I had the inkling that for a Mexican main, the dish was really rather beige looking – what with the meat and the sauce and the breadfruit dauphinoise… I though a splash of julienned red pepper would look rather nice. And with the success of last month’s confited tomato, I prepared it in a similar manner, (low temperature, long cooking time) and 4 hours later, out popped some confited pepper. This confiting lark is really rather tasty.

Anyway onto the next post – the supperclub itself – where it all finally came together. All the experiments and testers of the last month proved their worth because the event passed smoothly, probably more smoothly than July and the quality was more consistent. I’ll admit though, given that dessert was served around midnight, we overran slightly… I think the October supperclub will need to start earlier in the evening – probably 6pm. Don’t be late, you know who you are (everybody basically!)

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Final September Supperclub Menu


                               JOURNEY THROUGH MESOAMERICA                          

1 September 2013


Lime Sangria Aperitif and a Cashew Nut and Squash Muffin

Chickpea Soup and Coriander Doughnuts

Cerviche of Seasonal Vegetables – or – Cerviche of Vanilla Salmon

Chard Tamales served with Cashew Butter and Ginger Pumpkin

Lamb stuffed with a Spicy Chicken Mousse – or – Courgette and Soft Cheese Fritters

served with creamed sweetcorn, sweet potato and bread fruit dauphinoise, avocado fries, guacamole and chocolate mole

                                    October Supperclub Italian Taster: Melon and Rosemary Sorbet

Prickly Pear Ice-cream, Soursop Ice-cream, Cinnamon Rice Pudding on Dark Caramel, a Medley of Fresh and Roast Pineapple and a Tequila Snap

Café de Olla, Lime and Coffee  Water-based Ganache , Tequila and Salt Chocolate Fudge and Guava Paste and Cream-Cheese Chocolate


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And so it finishes

Six weeks ago, if I was apologising for being a few days late with my posts, then I should be grovelling about being three weeks late with this post. But what can I say. The cookery school must have changed me fundamentally because I remain unrepentant. The assessments came and went, goodbyes happened, but no tears, no tantrums. It’s been busy since with two weeks of work experience in professional kitchens and being in a constant zombie-like state of exhaustion. And the supperclub straight after that.

Anyway I want to update the blog with the latest supperclub news so being the stickler for chronology that I’ve already confessed to be, I’m adding this cursory post as my last goodbye to the Ashburton Cookery School. So long and thanks for the memories :-)

Group photo Ashburton

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Day 1 of the Assessment

Oh. Oooh. How do you write out that wailing noise you make which accompanies the wringing of your hands and the twisting of your foot on the floor on the verge of a stamp?

I had my first day of my cooking assessment today and how did it all go so badly? Let me list the ways that today went wrong. Perversely it will make me feel better.

The Vichysoisse was too thick, I knew this but 2.5 hours in without me having served my first plate of food, panic set it. I told myself not to waste time trying to make something perfect when I might end up not serving anything at all. With these stern words of sheer overreaction, a puree of potato, leek and onion was served to the table. In my defence, I personally like my soups thick with vegetables. A poor defence I admit. Not even particularly relevant as a defence….

And then I spent ages trying not to curdle my lemon cake batter (including delaying the making of the cake by an hour because the eggs provided were so ridiculously cold), only to curdle it because whadya know, lemon drizzle cake contains lemon juice which is always going to curdle the mix. Urgh! What was I thinking! Anyway, the cake turned out fine (until I carelessly fragmented the edges and the top turning it out of the tin) but it was quite demoralising standing over a cake mix that I had painstakingly added eggs to drop by drop only to have the whole thing curdle at the end.

Then I made my pastry dough which will be baked tomorrow. I already know that its a ridiculously “short” dough, which means it will crack at the merest threat of a rolling pin. Looks like I’ve set myself up for a fun day tomorrow.

For the grilled chicken main, the chicken skin wasn’t crispy and I overly browned my fricassee. No, that isn’t a euphemism for burnt, I actually thought the fricasse ended up pretty damn tasty but it dawned on me at some point in the cooking process, that this was a dish where the vegetables weren’t supposed to colour. Oh well. In my defence, I quite like a bit of colour on my vegetables.

Finally for the fresh fruit with sabayon, I didn’t cook the sabayon for long enough. It was with some bewilderment that I realised, while whisking the eggs for the sabayon, that I couldn’t remember what sabayon actually looked like. Should it be thin like custard, or have a barely dropping consistency like crème pat? The fact that I had only 10 minutes left to go made me decision for me, although now I wish I hadn’t panicked. I still can’t picture what a sabayon should look like but I’ve been reliably informed that our group generally didn’t manage to cook the sabayon out enough. At least in this error, I wasn’t alone.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a complete disaster (although reading this back, I have made it sound like one), but I’m still really cross with myself. Before today, anything was possible and now… well now the next three days of assessment will be spent  clambering out of the hole I’ve dug myself into. Really the issue was timing. I need to get faster, or at least not panic so much if I’m not faster. But actually no, I also definitely need to get faster as well because having only 10 minutes spare when I’m serving up dessert is just too close for comfort.

I don’t think I was taking this assessment seriously enough, but its only after today that I realise that I don’t really want another day like today again. So although for today’s assessment I only scribbled together a prep list this morning, the first thing I did this evening when I got back home was type out a prep list for tomorrow’s assessment which will consist of plaice gougons, roast veg tart and profiteroles.

Actually, I thought people might be interested to see what a prep list actually looks like, so I’ve pasted it below. Be warned that its a Work in Progress, and its not actually that interesting. Except to me – I am fascinated by my prep list…. which is why I secretly can’t help but believe that everyone else will find it fascinating too:



Heat the oven to 200C, turn the deep fryer onto 190C

Butter a 2nd tart tin and refrigerate. Check you have an egg for the wash. (11 in total including one for the wash and one for the gougons).

Fillet the flat fish and remove skin and refrigerate

1.15pm Roll out the pastry with plenty of plain flour to the thickness of the £1 coin and set in the 2 tins and refrigerate. Save the rest of the pastry for later.


Choose a circular plate and a ramekin and a jar, a glass plate and a square dessert bowl. Put the circular plate and jar and the glass plate in plate warmer. Put the dessert plate in the 2nd drawer.

Measure out the quiche filling ingredients

1 egg

1 egg yolk

30ml milk

50ml cream

100g goats cheese, add black pepper

Measure out the mayonnaise ingredients:

2 egg yolks

2T of white vinegar

150ml corn oil

½ t English mustard

Lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Measure out the profiterole ingredients:

150g water

65 plain flour

50g butter

2 eggs

Salt and sugar

A green icing bag

Measure out the crème patisserie ingredients

250ml milk

1 vanilla pod

3 egg yolks

50g caster sugar

30g corn flour

20g butter

1.50pm Make the creme patisserie and chill.

Bake the tart tins at 200C for 20 minutes (remove the cartouche after 15 minutes).

Make the profiterole pastry and cool in tray

Prepare a piping bag over a jug

Fix cracks and egg wash the tarts

2.15pm Peel the butternut squash. Chop the vegetables and roast at 200 for 15 minutes. Medium chop so that vegetable show through.

2.30pm Halve the capers for the Tartare sauce. Chop the gherkins, parsley and the red onion finely.

2.45pm Make the mayonnaise and refrigerate

Take the roast veg and cool


Finish the choux pastry put in piping bag and pipe 9 balls and bake at 200C for 20 minutes

3.10pm Fill a box with seasoned egg, seasoned flour and seasoned breadcrumbs. Place in a 4th box, do all of them.

3.18 Make the hole in the profiterole and put back in for a few minutes, then cool

3.20pm Make the tart filling

3.25pm Bake the tarts with the goats cheese and roast veg for 20 minutes

3.25pm Make the gougons and place in tissue paper to drain

3.30pm Serve the gougons with tartare and a wedge of lemon

3.40pm Make the dressing and pick the nicest salad leaves.

3.45pm Serve the tart

Clean up

3.50pm Melt chocolate and cream and salt on induction

3.55pm Whisk up the crème pat in a metal bowl and put into the icing bag

4pm Pipe the crème patisserie into the profiteroles

4.05pm Dip the profiteroles into the chocolate sauce and set

4.10pm Serve profiteroles with chocolate shavings…

4.15pm Clean up




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End of Teaching

I’ve just eaten the rest of my croissant dough as part of a makeshift pear tart tatin at 9pm on a Sunday evening so as much as the last teaching week calls for an outpouring of emotion and philosophical summation of the oh so crazy days. But I’m really too full and only able to recall the last teaching week in a vague haze – except for the sharp memory of my croissant making activities on Friday. I am very fond of croissants. Even now, with the doughy equivalent of 8 croissants in my belly.

This last teaching week has felt very much like a last week if that makes sense. Although this week has concentrated on game produce like venison and pigeon, our tutors have not assessed our plates as much and critiqued the results. That’s partly because this week hasn’t really included any dishes that we will be assessed on in week 6 and so although this week has been quite technical (lots of meat to be cooked medium rare, soufflés to be heated to a “barely cooked” consistency and making of our own croissant and brioche dough), the tutors have been fairly easy going in terms of presentation. I overcooked my venison and burnt my Danish pastries which provoked only a gentle rebuke from the tutor which I put down to the universally understood convention of last [insert given period] niceness.

All the things I was looking forward to learning were packed into this last teaching week and learning to cook game was really interesting. We got told about natural accompaniments for game – cabbage being one of them and its funny but now everywhere I look I see cabbage being paired up with game (I should clarify that where I’m “looking” is restaurant cookbooks and menus – yes I really do do that in my spare time). This week has also renewed my interest in beef wellingtons. We made a very tasty venison wellington but the pastry around the meat was wet and I really want to know how to prevent that. The tutor we had that day told us that he used to wrap the meat around some egg white pancakes, which were barely discernible. I’ve read that Michel Roux Jnr wraps his beef wellington with herb pancakes that form an identifiable part of the dish. Apparently spinach can be used. Although I don’t see how that would work?

We butchered pigeon also and then pan fried the breasts and had that for lunch. We has some lovely caramelised walnuts and apple with that although I wouldn’t have minded an extra accompaniment. Bit of cabbage maybe?


This week was also soufflé week and we made praline soufflé which has got me thinking about maybe doing a soufflé for a supperclub given that there not necessarily that difficult (except when you have 12 to prepare all at once so maybe I won’t…). I was planning to serve cinnamon rice pudding mousse for my September Mexican supperclub and I’m having trouble thinking of a good non-gelatine based setting agent but The Square cookbook has a recipe for rice pudding soufflé which might work as an alternative?


But Friday was the best day ever, the true grand finale. On Thursday we made our Danish pastry dough and the on Friday we got round to shaping our dough into every conceivable breakfast pastry.

Puff Layers Pain au choc Croissant shape Baked croissants Baked croissants 2 Making escargots

Undeterred by the impending hardening of our arteries we soldiered on and made a steak pudding with a suet crust for lunch.  The presentation was maybe a tad too fancy which just didn’t sit right with the presence of a traditional meat pudding on the plate but this was probably the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in the past 5 weeks and given that I’ve had so many tasty things here, it would be  contender for one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had -ever- except my memory is too poor to confirm.

Steak Pudding Eaten steak pudding

To finish us off entirely then, we made a raspberry millefeuille. Well it obviously didn’t finish me off entirely. I had to wait until Sunday for that.

Millefeuille 2 Millefeuille

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Vegetarian Cooking

So I’m making an effort to catch up. Once I’ve posted this (provided I post this today, on Monday) then I will be back up-to-date and I can have a few blissful days of uninterrupted digestion without having to hunch over a broken laptop to update the blog.

Blissful uninterrupted digestion, here I come…

Monday, Monday Monday. What to say. Well today we concentrated on vegetarian style fare with a more rustic note. I don’t know if the two go hand to hand but either way I took fewer photos today as I wasn’t really stunned into flashbulb submission on account of either the stuffed aubergine or the goats cheese tart that we made. They both tasted good though but I kinda expect that now.

We made vegetarian samosas today also so I guess today was also about a foray into cuisines beyond the European flavours and techniques that we’ve mainly focused on. If I were to be honest though – I like learning new techniques and it seems like a lot of the technically challenging techniques are French, sometime Italian in origin so when we did out various recipes today, I felt like it was something I could simply follow in a recipe book at home. Except i’m probably being a bit unfair… we made a gluten free shortcrust pastry today, and given that I’m approximately 9999 attempts away from being able to make a decent shortcrust, I should be grateful for the opportunity to practice. Also the actual shaping of the samosa isn’t intuitive so actually I have learnt a new technique – not based on French cooking. I do wonder sometimes if I’m falling into that trap of underestimating things that I don’t know a lot about – like non-European cooking… It annoys me when people suggest that Indian/Sri-Lankan cooking can’t be “posh” just because its not something that they themselves have experienced with Indian food in their limited contact of such food. But I seem to spend a lot of time myself thinking about sage and lemon and not enough thinking about tamarind and lemongrass. Actually that’s partly the reason that I’ve themed the September supperclub around Mexico – plenty of new flavours to explore I should think…

Does this count as an update on Monday then? To round the day off, we did get assessed on our stuffed aubergine and goat’s cheese tart.  I made an effort to get them looking fancy although I don’t think they look a patch on some of the “restaurant” style dishes we’ve made over the past few weeks.

Goat's cheese and squash tart Stuffed Aubergine Dish

Although I clearly have plenty to learn about vegetarian cooking (and tarts generally) as my tutor’s comments show… Well there’s always tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll be better.

Comments Goat's cheese and squash tartComments Stuffed Aubergine Dish


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All About Seafood (and dessert)

I’m feeling short of breath, panicked almost – only two weeks left but what have I learnt?

Can you tell me what I’ve learnt? What have I said that’s been remotely useful? I feel like I’ve spent too much time taking pictures and not enough time making notes. A friend of mine told me a few weeks back that she liked reading the “cooking tips” I’d learnt but I don’t think I’ve put any up since then… So here is my summary of The Things I’ve Learnt:

1) Root vegetables should be boiled from cold water (except Jersey Royals). 2) “Above ground” vegetables should be cooked in boiling water. 3) If you are “sweating” vegetables, add salt 4) If you want to caramelise vegetables (i.e. brown them), don’t add salt 5) Stocks should be made by adding the ingredients, bones etc into the cold water, then heating. 6) Fried eggs don’t need to be cooked over high heat, in fact low heat frying ensures a more even, consistent result 7) Presentation matters, it makes the food more exciting. Exciting equals tastier. (This is a personal opinion admittedly) 8) Escabeche is delicious. (This is a fact) 9) Don’t boil potatoes in salty water – it hardens the skin

That doesn’t seem like very much does it… Well there’s a ton of stuff I can do now. And the doing really matters to me because I feel like spend a lot of my time reading information but only reading. I love cookery books as much as – well -everyone. And I have my copy of McGree and Larousse. Accessing and applying information is my day job and while I can talk till I’m blue in the face about the different kinds of meringues, their properties and things to watch out for, I still can’t stop unsightly beads forming on the base of the meringues. And I’ve read this has something to do with overmixing and/or undermixing and/or not mixing the sugar in thoroughly enough – but no matter what I do, the beads are still there. So I guess there lies the space between theory and practice (although meringues remain an unresolved trauma of mine which I’ll have to get to grips with after the course is over).

Anyway, enough of the scattered thought-wandering, back to business. End of week 4:

Thursday was a seafood extravaganza, not that things are ever done my halves. When we do pork, we do pork for a week with two pork dishes a day, same with pastry, ice-creams, lamb everything. So no surprise that when we concentrate on seafood on Thursday, we prepare and fry squid scallop, cook our crab and stuff salmon, eat two our dishes for lunch and take the rest home for dinner along with the chocolate chip cookies.

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On Friday we carried on the theme of “extravaganza” and made two more desserts: carrot cake and lemon tart as well as two more seafood dishes, fried sardines with a Spanish stew and pork belly and lemon sole with brown shrimp.

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We ate both seafood dishes for lunch and took the desserts home (which I promptly polished off for dinner). Two lunches a day and always a rich dinner. I’m exhausted every evening and I’m beginning to think its my digestive system that’s struggling to cope.


Weekend will involves lots of cycling and a good chunk of the remaining carrot cake loaf.


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