30 January 2011

PRIVATE DINNER PARTY, Louise and Tony Bush

My latest dinner party was a three course, sit down menu for six people. I gave away the prize of a very special ChefGary Private Dinner Party for a charity event and the lucky raffle winners were Louise and Tony Bush. We planned the menu over the previous week, deciding to experience some food that they wouldn't usually cook themselves and I was very happy with their final choices.

Dinner Menu 

Char grilled asparagus spears,
Wrapped in Parma ham, served with Bearnaise sauce. Watercress salad.

Freshly baked wholegrain bread with pancetta, spring onion and mature cheddar .

Traditional beef Wellington,
Encased in puff pastry with baby spinach leaves and wild mushroom pate. served rare.
Potato and celeriac dauphinoise, honey glazed carrots, saute savoy cabbage & peas with crispy bacon.

Creme brulee,
With fruit compote and crunchy honeycomb topping, vanilla tuille biscuit.

I had a little way to travel to a stunning house not far from Marwell zoo along some quaint little windy roads. I had done most of my food preparation in my own kitchen and just needed to do the final cooking stages at the home of  Louise and Tony Bush. After initially taking a few wrong turnings, I was met by Louise and she made me feel very welcome as she showed me the way through to the kitchen. I unpacked all my cooking utensils, crockery, food, e.t.c and set to work. I had about an hour to get things ready and felt confident of cooking up some great tasting food for the nights guests.

I dished up the asparagus in Parma ham at about 8:45p.m and took out the beef fillet to rest while the starter was being enjoyed. I had some great feed back and so was in good stead to carry on the evening. By the time I dished up the main-course, I had chatted with all the guests and knew I was in good company with a group of friendly and down to Earth people. They were all a bit full after the Wellington and so decided to have a break before dessert. I was invited to join them all for a drink and was very happy to do so. I enjoyed a cold beer while joining in the tables conversation and could have enjoyed more if I didn't have to do dessert! I served up the brulee which again, was well received and I was really happy with the way the evening had gone.

I would like to thank Louise and Tony for being a fantastic host to me and their guests and hope that they will enjoy hosting again sometime.

Asparagus tips, wrapped in Parma ham,
Beef fillet Wellington,
Vanilla creme brulee with honeycomb,

"Hi Gary

Thank you once again for all the wonderful food that you prepared and cooked for us all. The feedback from everyone there on Friday night was that the food was excellent, and they all had a great time. I have been telling everyone what a wonderful experience it was to have a chef come into my home and to cook with only the glasses to wash up!!!!! I only wish I had more of an opportunity to see what you were doing and to pickup some tips!!!! The food looks excellent. It tasted divine. Thank you once again and I know its really cheeky to ask for the recipes but had I been able to get out from the table I would have loved to seen you cook. Best wishes and good luck for the future"
Louise Bush

Recipe for Asparagus spears.

3 Asparagus spears per person.
1/2 slice Parma ham for each asparagus spear.
Salt and pepper to taste.

1) Put a pan of water on to the boil.
2) Trim the asparagus spears to similar lengths of about 3 inches.
3) When the water is boiling, plunge the spears into the water for two minutes.
4) Take the spears out and carefully place them into a bowl of iced water.
5) When they are cool, wrap them with the Parma ham.
6) I then char grilled them for about four minutes, turning once.

ChefGary's tips:
I used large asparagus spears which hold their texture better for this dish. By blanching them in boiling water first, it reduces the grilling time and stops them drying out. At Louise's dinner party, I took the spears out of the char grill pan and flashed them in a hot oven just before serving. This was just to help me with timing when cooking for a few guests at the same time.

I served them with Bernaise sauce and watercress salad.

ChefGary's tips for beef Wellington:
I always use a single piece of fillet for this dish, allowing 5 to 6oz per person. 
Season the fillet with olive oil, salt and pepper, and sear in a hot pan, colouring on all sides.
Make a thin pancake to go between the beef and the pastry to help prevent the pastry from going going soggy.
Cook in an oven at about 200 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes and rest for another 10.
Carefully slice into portions before serving. You can flash them back in the oven if necessary for those guests that would like their beef cooked medium to welldone.

Recipe for honeycomb brulee

750ml double cream,
250ml full fat milk,
120 grams caster sugar,
8 large egg yolks,
2 vanilla pod, (split with seeds removed)

1) Pre-heat your oven to 125 degrees centigrade.
2) Whisk the yolks with the vanilla and sugar for several minutes, until frothy.
3) Add to the cream and milk.
4) Pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any unwanted egg shell.
5) Dived into ramekins, (should make about ten)
6) Place the ramekins into a deep roasting tray and fill halfway with hot water.
7) They will take about one and a half hours until set. (They should wobble slightly when shaken)
8) Chill for a few hours before eating.

Recipe for honeycomb:

4 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon water
200g caster sugar
3 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

Preparation method:

1. Grease a 20cm square cake tin or slice tray.
 2.In a large pan, mix the sugar, syrup and water together and boil for about 5 minutes, until dark brown in colour.

3.Remove pot from heat and add the bicarb. Quickly mix it in because the mixture will foam up instantly. Pour immediately into the cake tin. Leave to set then break into bite size chunks.

ChefGary's tips:
I keep my honeycomb in an airtight container in the freezer when made as it keeps well and will not collect moisture from the air and go soft, removing just before serving.

26 January 2011


Served with: Saute potatoes, glazed carrots, peas and pepper sauce.

I cooked a beautiful cut of fillet steak for my wife and I tonight quite simply, with saute potatoes and two veg with cracked black pepper and dijon mustard sauce. To get maximum benefit from the fillet, sear your steak in the pan with oil and butter, giving a great caramelized flavour. Don't overcook as it will lose its natural moisture. Fillet is such a beautifully lean and tender cut, it can dry out if overcooked and is best served with a sauce for added flavour.

Recipe for cracked black pepper and dijon mustard sauce.

1/2 onion (fine diced)
100ml red wine
1 table spoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch maldon sea salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
200ml double cream
300 ml thickened beef stock or gravy.

1) Use the pan that you have cooked your steak in to sweat the onions with the pepper and salt.
2) Add the red wine and reduce by half.
3) Add the mustard and cream, reduce by half again until thickened.
4) Add the beef stock and boil until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

ChefGary's Private Dinner Parties


I made a great pizza the other night at home, making everything from fresh, including the dough.

Ham, mushroom, red peppers, roasted garlic, tomato, red jalapenos, spring onion, basil and cheese.
The raw ingredients

Ready for the oven

15 minutes in the oven

Jalapenos on the side

Recipe for pizza dough with no yeast.


500 grams self raising flour,
100 to 150ml milk,
4 tablespoons olive oil,
Pinch of salt.


1) Put the flour into a large bowl with the salt and push against the sides to create a hole in the middle.
2) Add the olive oil and slowly add the milk whilst mixing.
3) Keep adding the milk until a soft dough is formed.
4) Carry on kneading the dough for about five minutes and then rest for a further ten.
5) Roll out the dough to your desired shape before adding your choice of filling.

ChefGary's tips:

1) Milk makes a lighter dough than water.
2) Don't add all the milk at once as it sometimes takes less moisture to form the dough.
3) Your dough should be very light, silky and smooth in texture.
4) Keep it covered while resting to prevent it drying out.

Recipe for quick pizza sauce:


3 large tomatoes,
2 cloves garlic,
1/2 onion,
1/2 red chilli,
1 handful fresh basil,
Splash of olive oil,
Salt and pepper to taste.


1) Roughly chop all the ingredients and place in the oven at 220 Celsius for twenty minutes,
2) Take out and blend to a smooth paste, sieve if you like a smoother sauce.
3) Ready to use.

ChefGary's tips

1) Adding the basil just before blending will give a more intense flavour,
2) If your sauce is a little wet then add a teaspoon of tomato puree,

22 January 2011


Served with fresh vegetables, sticky soy, honey and chilli sauce.

Turkey breast meat is often compared with chicken and has a reputation for being a bit drier. This is mainly because it is so often overcooked. While I would usually use chicken or pork fillet with this recipe, it works equally well with the turkey. The turkey only had a few minutes cooking time in a really hot pan before I added chilli, ginger, honey and soy sauce. I reduced the sauce around the turkey while I fried the vegetables for less than a minute in another pan. The sticky soy and honey sauce keeps the turkey moist and adds a great little chilli kick with the added sweetness of the honey.


17 January 2011


Wok fried broccoli, garlic, leeks and red peppers. Ginger, saffron, tomato and cream sauce.

We are always being made aware of over fishing in our waters and the old favourites such as cod are becoming more scarce. There are lots of varieties about that we don't usually see much of, such as gurnard, pangasius and pollock. These are all great fish to use and are more sustainable than some other more popular varieties and we will be seeing more of them on menus as time goes on. I got some pollock loin on the weekend from the fish monger and thought I would try something different with it. Pollock is from the same family as cod and this recipe really complimented it well.

I cooked the fish in a shallow saucepan on a high heat with olive oil and butter for just a few minutes. For the mashed root vegetables, I used carrots, parsnips and swede, with freshly grated nutmeg, cracked black pepper and butter. For the sauce I saute some finely diced onion and shredded ginger for a few minutes before adding a splash of white wine and a pinch of saffron. I then added sliced baby plum tomatoes and double cream which I reduced down before seasoning. The broccoli was saute with finely sliced leeks and garlic, garnished with julienne of red peppers.

Pollock fillet, ginger, saffron, tomato and cream sauce.

15 January 2011

COOKING LESSON, Asian Banquet 2

 I did my first one on one cooking lesson today with Owen Hedicker who practises muscle activation techniques in Eastleigh. We cooked up curried lentils with chilli, ginger and coconut milk, garlic and coriander flat breads and vegetable bhaji's.

Lentil curry.

Ingredients:                                                                    Equipment:
1 cup of red lentils (soaked overnight)                           1 deep saucepan.
1/2 teaspoon turmeric.                                                   1 shallow saucepan.
1white onion, small diced.                                             1 wooden spoon, for stirring.
1 medium green chilli, 2 for extra heat.
1 inch fresh ginger, grated.
1 teaspoon cumin seeds.
1 teaspoon mustard seeds.
1 teaspoon fennel seeds.
2 teaspoon coriander seeds.
1 can coconut milk.
1 small bunch fresh coriander., shredded.
Oil for frying; groundnut, walnut or sesame is good to use.
Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.

1) Bring two cups of water to the boil in the deep saucepan, add the lentils and turmeric.
2) Boil together for 6 to 10 minutes. Check that the lentils are tender before straining.
3) Meanwhile, heat the shallow saucepan on a medium heat.
4) Add all the seeds and toast for a few minutes until the seeds give off their aromas.
5) Add the oil to the pan before adding the diced onion and ginger.
6) Fry for a further few minutes to soften the onions, before adding the lentils.
7) Pour n the coconut milk and bring to the boil.
8) Add the chopped coriander and stir through before taking off the heat.
9) Check the seasoning before serving.

ChefGary's tip:

If you don't have all the seeds in your cupboard then a tablespoon of garam masala can be used. Translated, this means mixed spice. It is an integral ingredient to most curry powders and pastes and can be bought in powder form or in whole spices. A tablespoon of curry powder or paste could be used but you will have to adjust the use of fresh chilli as most curry powders already have chilli in them.

Garlic and coriander flat breads.

Ingredients:                                                                                   Equipment:
250 grams strong plain flour.                                                        1 shallow saucepan
1 inch fresh ginger, finely sliced.                                                  1 bowl for mixing
1 garlic clove, crushed.                                                                 1 rolling pin.
1 tablespoon coconut yoghurt. (Use natural if unavailable)        
1 teaspoon coriander seeds.
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds.
1/2 small bunch fresh coriander.
1 medium green chilli.
4 to 6 tablespoons warm water.
Oil for cooking.
Pinch of salt and pepper.
Extra flour for rolling out the breads.

1) Mix all the ingredients together except the water.
2) Add the water slowly, stirring all the time until a soft dough is formed.
3) Dip your fingers into the extra flour and divide the dough into equally shaped balls.
4) Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
5) Have the extra flour handy when you need to roll out the breads.
6) Roll out all the breads to a few millimetres thick.
7) Drizzle the oil over all the breads and lightly rub in on one side.
8) Starting with the oiled side, cook the breads individually in a hot saucepan for about thirty seconds on each side.

ChefGary's tip:

I love adding additional flavours to the breads, such as sesame seeds, dessicated coconut, mustard seeds, fennel seeds and poppy seeds. They are great on their own as a snack with the added spices or you can just make plain ones (flour, yoghurt and water only) to eat with stronger flavoured curries.

Vegetable bhaji's.

Ingredients:                                                                     Equipment:
1 onion, sliced.                                                                 1 mixing bowl
1 carrot, grated.                                                               1 shallow saucepan         
1 potato, grated.                                                              1 sieve
2 garlic cloves, crushed.
1 inch fresh ginger, grated.
1 teaspoon garam masala.
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds.
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds.
1/2 teaspoon turmeric.
1/2 medium green chilli.
1 teaspoon tomato ketchup.
2 tablespoons chickpea flour. (use plain flour as alternative)
1 small bunch coriander.
1 tablespoon water.
Pinch of salt and pepper.
Oil for cooking.

Fry the onions in the saucepan for a few minutes until they soften.
2) Set the onions aside and grate the potato, carrot and ginger.
3) Wash the potato and carrot under running water to remove the starch.
4) Squeeze out any excess water before adding to the onions.
5) Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.
6) The mixture should appear quite stodgy in texture. Add more flour or water if necessary.
7) Preheat the saucepan and fry over a low heat for 5 to 8 minutes on each side until crisp.

ChefGary's tip:

Try using other vegetables, such as courgette, parsnip and sweet potato.

If you don't have all the spices you can replace them with curry powder, but you won't get the same unique blend of individual flavours and textures that you get by mixing your own.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Gary for my one to one cooking lesson. As a beginner home cook it was a great experience to learn some restaurant standard dishes that I could take home that evening. My fiancées' comment being 'you actually cooked this or did he do it?!' To have the one to one attention is excellent as all my questions could be answered enthusiastically by Gary as we cooked and he was able to show me how to bring the recipe to life with attention to certain details and techniques beyond the instructions you would find in a book. I've been out shopping and am confident and looking forward to reproducing the dishes :)'

"I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to learn how to cook particular dishes or even for skills or techniques to be used across the board. Gary can tailor it to your needs whatever your level.. And its good fun :)'

Owen Hedicker

11 January 2011


Soy, ginger, chilli and honey.

My favourite cut of pork to eat has always been the belly. With a great ratio of meat to fat, it is both succulent and full of flavour. If cooked slowly, it is simply a delight to eat. I love it as part of a traditional English roast, but tonight my Wife and I had it oriental style with noodles.

Slow roast pork belly

500 grams pork belly
1 tablespoon 5 spice (see below)
2 teaspoons Schechuan peppercorns,
2 teaspoons Fennel seeds,
1/2 teaspoon cloves,
3cm stick cinnamon,
8 x star anise.

I toasted the spices on a low heat for several minutes until they began to give off their aroma. Be careful not to roast for too long as they can burn and become bitter.
I then ground the spices to a fine powder, adding sea salt. 
Store the 5 spice powder in an air tight container in a cupboard for up to one month.

1) Rub the belly of pork with the 5 spice and leave for one hour at room temperature.
2) Heat a frying pan and colour the pork on all sides before placing on a pre-heated oven at 140 centigrade.
3) Cook for about two hours until tender.
4) Leave to rest, reserving any juices for the noodles.
5) For the stir fry, I used leek, celery, broccoli, garlic, red chilli and fresh ginger.
6) Use the same frying pan that you used for the pork so as not to lose any flavour.
7) Add pre boiled noodles near the end of cooking with the soy sauce and honey.
8) Add the juices from the pork tray into the noodles.
9) Pile the noodles into the middle of two plates.
10)Thinly slice the pork and lay atop of the noodles.
11) Enjoy with a chilled Asian beer such as Tsingtao or Kirin.

ChefGary's tip:
I removed the rind for the crackling before cooking. I cooked it separately between two sheets of parchment paper and weighted it down. This is a fancy trick to get a great looking piece of crackling. 


5 January 2011


Sun blushed tomato and goats cheese pesto. 
Wrapped in parma ham and crisp puff pastry. Served with roasted tomato. garlic and basil coulis. Bubble and squeak cakes and fresh broccoli.

Two free range chicken breasts,
Two puff pastry sheets,
Two slices parma ham,
Pesto (blush tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, goats cheese, basil)

Shallots, garlic, tomatoes, fresh red chili, fresh basil, white wine vinegar, brown sugar, 
sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Bubble and squeak cakes
1 Potato, mashed.
25gram  onion, grated,
25 gram carrot, grated,
25 gram cabbage, grated,
Dijon mustard,
Nutmeg, sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Fresh minted white chocolate chip cheese cake.

Cream cheese ,fresh whipped cream, grated white chocolate, fresh mint.
Crumbed oat biscuits, melted chocolate and butter.

ChefGary Private Dinner Parties

3 January 2011


My lovely Wife and I spent New years with great friends, Stuart and Karen and their two daughters, Chloe and Annabelle. Stuart is a great amateur Chef and together we cooked up some fantastic recipes. We did a great three course dinner on new years eve and had a buffet dinner on new years day. I really had a great time cooking and it is so rewarding to cook for people that really appreciate their food. Chloe and Annabelle are aged 13 and 9 and have fantastic palettes for their age and ate everything that we cooked. I must also give Karen so much credit as she did a great job cleaning up after two chefs in her kitchen.

New years eve Menu


Seared scallops, salsa verdi.
Fragrant basmati rice with lemon zest and cracked black pepper.


Traditional beef fillet Wellington, served rare.
Wrapped in crisp puff pastry with wild mushroom and bacon pate.

Served with;
 Buttered carrots, glazed with fennel seed, 
honey roast parsnips, 
green beans, saute with streaky bacon.
  Red wine and dijon mustard gravy.


Karen's special chocolate chip brownies with vanilla icecream.

Honey roast parsnips, 

Karen, Chloe, Stuart, Annabelle, Karen.

New year day menu

Roast leg of pork in tandoori marinade.
Served with pilau rice, vegetable pakora, poppadom, sweet chili dip,
garlic flat breads, pork crackling and cumin, ginger and coriander gravy.

Roast tandoori pork

Flat breads

Vegetable pakoras