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Friday, 6 February 2015

A February salad

At Black Pot Catering, we believe in cooking with locally grown, seasonal ingredients whenever possible, but there are times when our commitment is stretched.   February is one of them, when the vegetables in season are almost exclusively roots and brassicas.  Of course we love roots and brassicas, which make wonderful stews, soups and hearty side dishes.   But our clients don't always want ribsticking fare: our ladies in particular favour food that's light, healthy and refreshing as well as seasonal.   

Cauliflower & hazelnut salad with elderflower dressing

Enter cauliflower, the most delicate of the brassicas.  Newly fashionable and with good reason, cauliflower is hugely versatile and given the right treatment can feel remarkably glamorous.   Cauliflowers are available all year round but the winter varieties have great flavour, and along with beetroot and carrot, they are one of the few winter veg that work really well raw.   We devised this simple salad using mandolin-shaved cauliflower, which gives a pretty English-lace effect, with toasted hazelnuts and a fragrant dressing made from elderflower cordial.  The cordial brings a whiff of summer to come. 

Ingredients (for 4)

1/2 medium cauliflower, washed and trimmed of leaves
½ small bunch dill, chopped
½ small bunch chives, chopped
few hazelnuts, toasted and lightly crushed 
2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp hazelnut or walnut oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp elderflower cordial
salt + pepper 


Separate the cauliflower into large florets. Using a mandolin, shave the florets.  If you have a mandolin with a finger guard, so much the better.  If not, be careful!  Try to get as many slices as possible which include some stem and some of the flower.   Combine all dressing ingredients and mix through the cauliflower.   Add herbs and mix again. Turn cauliflower onto serving plate and garnish with hazelnuts.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013



It’s Thanksgiving week and we are busy stuffing turkeys, mashing sweet potato and making pumpkin pie for our American clients. Thanksgiving is a slightly odd event for us Brits – a distinctly American harvest festival celebrating the pioneering settlers of the 17th century. The Thanksgiving banquet resembles our Christmas table but with some odd twists, as though the idea got scrambled in translation. And yes, I do know that the origins of Christmas and Thanksgiving are entirely different, and that turkeys actually originated in the Americas and were adopted, greedily, by the Brits. I mean no disrespect to our American friends, and certainly none to our charming American clients. And yet.

There’s roast turkey involved, stuffing, sprouts and gravy, along with cranberry sauce (another American import, for that matter)…but pork doesn’t seem to feature in the classic Thanksgiving meal and I do miss the deeply savoury, crunchy-sticky double whammy of chipolatas and bacon. And where, oh where are the roast potatoes? Instead there is rice (sometimes) and mashed sweet potato (mostly). I like sweet potato (we add some grated ginger sweated in butter, which gives a good edge) but again I miss the crunch and it’s all a bit – well, sweet rather than savoury.

But the worst is yet to come. Some Americans like to top their mashed sweet potato with…marshmallows. Yes, those white squidgy pillowy sweets that taste of nothing except sugar and goo. Sometimes they bake the marshmallows into the mash which at least gives a bit of interest by way of caramelization. Sometimes they just stick ‘em in. Never does the cultural chasm seem so wide.

The puddings redeem things somewhat. I’ve grown to quite like the soothing, gently spiced qualities of pumpkin pie though once a year is plenty and it’s not a patch on a good Christmas pud. Pecan pie, though, is a revelation: dark, sticky, nutty, crunchy (crunch at last!) and very very rich. An all round all American star.
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