I wrote COOKING FOR WEEKEND AWAY 2012 – STORIES BEHIND THE KITCHEN DOOR two years ago when Lily, my husband and I cooked for the Weekend Away 2012 in Balcary House in Scotland. This year, we went to Scotland again, a village called Moffat for our annual International Weekend Away. I’m writing a blog which means we were cooking again.
First of all, “THANK YOU” to Ben, Doug and Penny for your trust, support and great team work! Secondly, “Xie xie (thank you in Chinese)” to sous chef Jenny for your willingness and extremely hard work, not willing to lay your bottom on a chair for one minute. Lastly, my husband was always happy to tidy the kitchen up after me which sounded like nothing but was usually a huge job. THANK YOU!
Looking back, here are a few lessons and feedback (for future reference, who knows if/when we will sign up for this kind of task again) mainly concerning the catering aspect of the Weekend Away:
- A couple of people were commenting on the good flavour of the porridge to our amazement, since it really wasn’t the most expensive porridge due to our tight budget. The secret ingredients were sugar, salt and prayer!
- I stuffed a rucksack with all sorts of cooking and baking equipment which proved to be useful: an electric whisk (for double cream), a blender (for onion), a scale (for all desserts), a knife and a knife sharpener (for all the chopping).
- What we didn’t bought or brought but needed badly was cling film, especially since we did a lot of chopping and marinating in advance. Long matches were another thing in urgent need.
- Defrost frozen fruit in plenty time ahead and dry them if possible. They were swimming in cream!
- Cheap salt is more salty than sea salt.
- Never fill a tray with too much sticky toffee pudding batter – the middle will not cook!
- Never use a plastic bowl for whisking double cream (or anything) – unless you don’t mind bits of plastic in your food.
- Check plastic bowls against light for unexpected holes – unless they’re colanders.
- The washing machine and tumble dryer were our best friends – not sure how else we would manage to clean and dry all the tea towels twice a day.
- The disagreement between British and Asian ways of washing dishes happens year after year – rinse or not to rinse. No side has managed to convince the other side yet (save in our house – of course I win).
- Among all the spreads for toast (even including chocolate), peanut butter seemed to be the most popular at breakfast.
- Two cartons of 6 litre milk were sufficient for porridge, tea & coffee for a weekend of just over 30 people.
- Students: “We’re forever eating!”
It was a big relief to see students chatting happily over food and came back for second servings. I also felt really flattered when students asked for the recipes and someone said they tried to reproduce some dishes at home after we came back to Newcastle. So to keep my promise, here are the recipes for the meals during the weekend.
- Spaghetti Bolognese
This recipe is from a cookbook which is not available online. I found it during our first trip to Barter Books. To respect copyright, I’ll just describe it loosely:
Fry chopped onion, chopped bacon and beef mince first. When it’s brown, add ready-made tomato pasta sauce, red wine vinegar, sugar and oregano. Simmer. That’s it! The secret ingredients are caster sugar and red wine vinegar.
- Roasted Sausage and Potato Supper
Click here for the recipe from BBC Food website. It’s a Mary Berry recipe. Quite a lot of chopping at preparation stage. But it’s really easy to cook.
- Chicken with a Mango Sauce
It’s a recipe I adapted from Mary Berry’s Pan-fried Pheasant with a Mango Sauce recipe from her Cook Now Eat Later cookbook. I used chicken drumsticks. This recipe is also not available online for free. So here’s a description. (Just imagine you’re doing a Technical Challenge at the Bake Off…)
Cook onion first. Brown the chicken drumsticks. Mix mango chutney, worcestershire sauce and cream. Pour over chicken and cook in oven.
I roasted the drumsticks in advance to make sure they were cooked through. You can fry them in pan if you’re cooking for a smaller crowd… Another thing, the 552ml Mango Chutney doesn’t have 26 tbsp as it says on Tesco website. I could only get 18 tbsp out!
Fish curry is not my recipe. They were from Globe Café.
- Eton Mess
Click here for the recipe from BBC Food website. There are plenty Eton Mess recipes online for you to choose from. You can see I skipped all the “optional” ingredients and decorative stuff. I used summer mixed fruit instead of strawberry. It required less preparation and was more budget-friendly.
- Lemon Posset
Click here for the recipe from BBC Food website. Just like Eton Mess, there are plenty recipes online. This specific one was recommended by a good friend who knows his food well. So I trusted him. It was good. The Salted Caramel Ice Cream recipe was also a recommendation from him. It needs to be done the night before to set. I didn’t use any lemon zest which was one of the ingredients in Mary Berry’s recipe. But I found it way too lemony. We’ve been collecting Gu pots for years for no specific reason. They were finally useful at the weekend! (They are standing on my selves useless again now…)
- Sticky Toffee Pudding
Click here for the recipe from BBC Food website. It’s a Simon Hopkinson recipe. It was one of the first British cooking programmes I watched. I loved it. Plus it’s similar to our church’s baking queen Vivienne’s recipe. That’s why I decided to use it.
- Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Click here for the recipe from Nigella.com. It’s THE simplest dessert, even simpler than Lemon Posset. But very effective. However, I think it’s going out of fashion…
Let me know how you get on. Enjoy!