28 May 2010

Five Unforgivable Wedding Food Faux Pas

I am privileged enough to be the food expert at The Wedding Community offering wedding specific advice to hundreds of couples in the throws of organising their big day. Here is a taster of a recent article...

I have worked on over one thousand weddings and the following choices have never, ever worked well for the guests, the couple nor the caterer.

1. Replacing Pudding with Cake
I am evangelical about this, so much so that I have dedicated a whole article about it, here.

2. Marrying Early but Eating Late
Beware the “black hole” between the end of your ceremony and the first bite of food. If you are marrying any earlier than 3pm, your guests will not have had lunch (trust me, they wont) and will need feeding twice. Some form of food should be made available within half an hour of your nuptials and guests should be taking their seats for the main meal within two hours of the confetti falling.

3. Changing Seats after the Starter
If you’re intending to play musical chairs, don’t make the first move until after the main course. As a caterer and a passionate foodie, I can think of nothing worse than a beautiful dish drying out and crusting over in a hot cupboard as the post-starter speech inevitably drags.

4. A Selfishly Whacky Menu
There is a difference between serving delicious food to delight everyone and food so unique that the majority of your guests won’t touch it. Yes you might have eaten stuffed sardines on your first date, yes I appreciate that Nigella is heralding a fois gras renaissance but what goes uneaten goes unappreciated. Oysters, veal, fois gras, offal... proceed with caution and ask you caterer for advice. They’ll know what will leave guests full versus what will leave them famished.

5. Icecream in a Hot Marquee
There is a memorable episode of BBC’s The Restaurant where one hapless duo learn the hard way that marquees don’t come with freezers. Instead of ice cream and poached pears, they end up serving lukewarm “vanilla soup” to one hundred horrified VIPs at the Hurlingham Club. Caterers can do incredible things but keeping sorbet, icecream and frozen desserts at the necessary minus 23 degrees Celsius in outdoors in the sun using only a cool box is beyond even our magic.

22 May 2010

May Big Picture

The Orchid Room at Nonsuch Mansion as taken by the wonderful Lloyd Dobbie.

To me, this photo captures the sense of calm anticipation felt by wedding caterers like Bovingdons. It also highlights the attention to detail needed to "set the scene" before the guests walk through the door.

Just looking at it gives me pre-event butterflies!

17 May 2010

In Season - British Asparagus

Be quick! You've not got long to enjoy this superfood delicacy. Asparagus has a teasingly short and notoriously unpredictable season which falls sometime between May and June depending on the fickle British weather. I am reliably informed by the British Asparagus Growers Association website that the 2010 season is well and truly here.

Appropriately perhaps for an aphrodisiac, the key to ensuring the best flavour is tenderness rather than length or girth. Colour is a good indicator, seek light green with closed tips and a hint of purple. British Asparagus is a hand grown crop which requires a huge investment of time and patience for a relatively low yield. Cooking it however, is almost totally the opposite case!

 - Simple: Steamed with a splash of olive oil, black pepper and parmesan
 - Hot: Fresh asparagus soup with crème fraiche and sage and parmesan bread
 - Brunch: Asparagus bundles tied with chives served with a vanilla and pomegranate mayonnaise
 - Fish: Asparagus icecream with salmon toasts - recipe here!
 - Main: Pan roast asparagus with rare roast beef, wild mushroom jus, thyme and talegio potatoes
 - Summer Buffet: Prosciutto or Parma ham involtini of chargrilled asparagus
 - Stuffed: Baby Pousin with fresh asparagus stuffing, lemon risotto, French beans and tarragon jus
 - Vegetarian: Fresh handmade asparagus ravioli with herb emulsion and micro shoots

13 May 2010

Pull! Westminster Tug of War

Part of being a professional and discreet corporate caterer means never, ever disclosing details about a client's event before it occurs.

Not so when the event in question is the Westminster Tug of War! This event is one of the highlights of the Parliamentary calendar, and, unlike the incredible barbeque I mentioned in a previous post, everyone is invited to buy a ticket and attend. 

Held in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, the 23rd annual Tug of War will be held on Tuesday 8 June from 5.30-10pm in the stunning venue that is Westminster Abbey College Gardens.

You can join 600 guests to enjoy an exclusive champagne reception with canapes and tasty bowl food (all delicious, I promise!) whilst you witness Lords and MPs, choristers, rival City firms, embassies, fire fighters and military teams all battling it out over a Tug of War rope.

If you have never attended, this is the year to go. After yesterday's news, it is sure to be an particularly unmissable occasion.

5 May 2010

West End Charm: Fulham Palace

I am delighted to say that after a few weeks of anxiously waiting for "the phonecall", Bovingdons have been awarded a privileged place on the catering list at Fulham Palace.

There are so many reasons why I love this venue; its impressive courtyard entrance, the way that it nestles quietly beside the Thames, the romantic atmosphere of its wild walled gardens, its maze of achingly graceful rooms, its intriguing thousand year history, the graceful tall ceilings and elegant furnishings... I could go on. Fulham Palace is a venue that has won top awards and high praise as well as my heart.

The ink on our contract is still wet but I'm already looking forward to catering for some sublime summer soirees. In my mind, a perfect palace party would involve Courtyard canapés, a delicious dinner in the Chaplain’s Garden Marquee, a dance floor in the Great Hall and a corner for quiet conversation in Bishop Terrick's Drawing Room.

Fulham Palace has a great management team with a flexible approach to how you choose use its cluster of various sized drawing and dining rooms. For availability and more details call 020 7736 8140 or visit http://www.fulhampalace.org/, then call me to start talking food!

1 May 2010

Westminster's Vote Winning BBQ

What do you think of when you think of Westminster? Politics? The election? When I think of Westminster I immediately think of prime Scottish beef.

No, not the PM! I mean delicious meat sizzling on a barbeque. Why? Because for the last eight years, summer at Westminster Abbey Gardens for Bovingdons means the privilege of catering at the annual Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board event (formerly the Meat and Livestock Commission).

As you can imagine, this showcase offers the biggest variety and best possible quality of this country's meat - Scottish beef, Welsh lamb, English sausages... every single ingredient (including the sauces) must be of British origin, the meat must be labelled and fully traceable almost right to the animals name. My yearly challenge as appointed caterer is to surpass my last menu.  It's an irresistible brief for Chef David and I. We have just pitched our ideas for 2010 but my lips are sealed! Instead, here are just some of the items from the 2009 barbeque to tempt the carnivore in you.

Seared fillet of British beef in little Yorkshire puddings with horseradish cream
Crisp new potatoes filled with dry cure smoked bacon and English blue cheese
Little spiced lamb and aubergine falafel

Conisbees Cumberland pork sausages
Home and hand made beef burgers with chilli and fresh parsley
Shoulder of lamb, marinated in garlic and lavender yoghurt
British pork shoulder steaks with apricot glaze
Sticky BBQ lamb slices

Minted new potato mayonnaise
Roasted vegetable with red onions, purple basil and barley
Garden leaf and herb salad with rape seed oil dressing
Tomato and cucumber salad with Bovingdons honey dressing

Good grain mustard
Home made mayonnaise
Good horseradish sauce
Bovingdons Famous BBQ sauce

Mini waffle cones of assorted sorbets
Bowls of delicious Eton Mess with strawberries and cream

English, Scottish and Welsh Cows cheese
with crostini fingers and oatcakes 

A selection of rustic country breads made with Doves flour

(and yes, of course the full menu includes a fair proportion of vegetarian, Halal and special diet considerations)