Aligot, pulled brisket and our first ever festival pop-up

Spianata with pulled brisket and coleslaw

We’ve just come back from a lovely couple of weeks in France. Our usual summer holiday of filling a big house with friends and family for eating, drinking, volleyball and lounging. There were briefly 18 of us when two of Jonny’s friends who were cycling from the Pyrenees through France decided that a few nights of home comforts would refresh them for the last leg of their journey. The first night the cyclists were with us was the kids (teenagers now) turn to cook and they came up trumps: Aligot (a local speciality: cheesey mash made with a young Tomme cheese which you can buy ready-grated and seasoned in the market) with a fragrant fennel and sausage casserole followed by roast peaches with a kind of sweetened yeasted cake a bit like Pannetone (also bought in the local market) and ice cream. Can’t you just taste it all?

Back home my mind has rapidly turned to our first ever festival pop-up. The splendid guys at A Rule of Tum started the Hereford Indie Food festival last year and it was an instant success. This year it’s back, bigger and better for the three days of the August Bank Holiday weekend. As well as a producers’ market and street food stalls (of which our Bill’s Kitchen is one) the Indie Food crew have teamed up with the Hay Festival to offer a series of food-related talks. Sunday morning sees Stephen Terry (from the excellent Hardwick pub near Abergavenny) at 10am followed by me at 11am talking about some recipes from my new book. Book your tickets for the talks at http://www.herefordindiefood.com/talks/

But the street food stalls are at the heart of what the Indie Food festival is all about. Our stall, ‘Bill’s Kitchen’, will be focusing on sourdough spianata sandwiches. For the fillings customers will choose between grilled halloumi with roast vegetables in a tomato and basil dressing or our stunning slow-cooked pulled Herefordshire brisket.

You’ll be able to find the spianata recipe in my new book, also called Bill’s Kitchen (published on 2nd October but available now to pre-order at http://www.billscafes.co.uk/shop/ ) but here’s the recipe for the utterly mouthwaterig slow-cooked pulled brisket.

Pulled brisket in its cooking pot

I think it makes sense to make quite a big quantity of this and then freeze what you don’t want straight away. If you’re not used to cooking things overnight then have courage and give it a go – it’s bizarre but rather wonderful to wake up to the aroma of slowly cooking spiced beef.

Serves 15-20 depending on your appetite

2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and whizzed in a spice grinder or bashed with a pestle and mortar
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
20g salt
2 tsp hot smoked paprika

2kg beef brisket boned but not rolled (if you can only get a rolled one then just cut the string and unroll it so that it’s easier to rub the spices into it)

500ml dry cider
75g molasses or black treacle

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (fan).

Mix together the ground fennel seeds, rosemary, garlic, salt and hot smoked paprika. Rub the spice spice mix over all the meat’s surfaces and try to get it into any nooks and crannies. Put into a heavy casserole dish with a well-fitting lid.

Roast for 30 minutes with the lid off. Mix the cider and molasses together and pour over the meat. Put the lid on and turn the oven down to 120c (fan) and cook overnight (or for 10-12 hours) until a lot of fat has run out and the meat is soft enough to be pulled with a fork.

Pour off all the liquid (including any melted fat); put in a gravy separator and discard the fat. Discard any remaining solid fat and any grissly bits (there shouldn’t be much of this) and pull the beef with a couple of forks. Put the pulled meat and the liquid together and mix well. You can either serve it straight away or keep in the fridge and fry it up in a pan or warm in the oven when you want it. It’s resilient stuff.

 

 

 

 

A day of cooking for a week of eating

 

Courgette and feta filo pie with patatas bravas

We’re really motoring on the book now. Every Wednesday Jay Watson (the photographer) and I get together, usually at my house but occasionally at one of the cafes, to cook, test and photograph a batch of recipes. Jay has a wonderful imagination and sense of style and is using virtually every piece of crockery and every fabric and every interesting corner to show the food off at its very best.

So the book-writing weekly routine is working out like this. On Monday I do a first draft of the week’s recipes (about 8-10 each week). On Tuesday I shop and start preparing, marinating, chopping and mixing and actually cook anything that’s just as happy to be made the night before – maybe a cassoulet, some salted caramel walnut brownies or a rabbit stew.

Edna’s wonderful cheese biscuits with fennel seeds, paprika or plain

Then on Wednesday I’m up early to try and make sure that a good number of the dishes are ready by the time Jay arrives at about 11. I try to plan it so that things are coming out of the oven in a good order so that they can be photographed as freshly as possible – things that have sat around for too long generally look as though they’ve sat around for too long. I’ll have some suggestions for Jay about how we might present a dish but she has a great visual imagination and sense of colour (and I’m a bit colour-blind) so whilst I’ve done all the cooking, most of the set-up is done by her.

On a good day we’ll have the splendid Helen washing up and then we’ll have time for a lunch break, eating some of the food that’s already been photographed. Then Helen and I will clear up and I’ll do goody-bags for Jay and Helen and the team heads off; leaving me to try to fit the vast mass of leftovers into our fridge.

But then it’s downhill all the way. Most weeks we’ve had enough leftovers from the Wednesday photoshoot to feed the family for the rest of the week. And it’s all really good stuff. So after the last photoshoot at home we (that is me, Sarah, Jonathan and Holly) had the following to feed us for a week:

Charring the aubergine for the baba ganoush

  • Celie’s Lemon and garlic roast chicken with Charlotte potatoes
  • Leek and gruyere quiche
  • Victoria O’Neil’s Vietnamese beef
  • Courgette and feta filo pie
  • Patatas bravas with pipelchuma
  • Both venison and mushroom lasagne and roast vegetable and halloumi lasagne
  • Baba ganoush
  • Hummus
  • Edna’s wonderful cheese biscuits

The finished baba

 

 

 

So that was our menu at home for nearly the whole of the next week – delicious.

Here’s the recipe for patatas bravas pictured at the top
of the page

Patatas bravas

This is the omnipresent item on tapas menus. Potatoes with a spicey tomato sauce. As well as being a snack in their own right they go beautifully with our courgette and feta filo pie or Spinakopita. I like them made with roast small potatoes although I suspect this is not authentically Spanish.

If you don’t have Pipelchuma to hand you can just use chilli flakes. If you like your patatas particularly brave you can increase the amount of pipelchuma/chilli flakes.

750g small potatoes, Charlottes are ideal, halved
4 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 large onion, halved and sliced
4 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt

1 x 500g passata
2 tsp Pipelchuma

Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan). Toss the halved potatoes with the oil and salt and roast for around 35 minutes until browning and quite tender.

Meanwhile fry the onions on a lowish heat in the olive oil with the salt for about 25 minutes until very soft. Add the passata and pipelchuma, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce.

Mix the sauce with the roast potatoes and serve straight away.

The film of the book

The café Christmas madness is over and I’m now back working at my new cookbook – ‘Bill’s Kitchen’. One of the things that’s continuing to surprise me is that there’s so much to do which isn’t directly writing the book – all the more so because I’m going to crowdfund the book and publish it myself. It’s both a delight and a challenge that I and my team have to do or organize everything: the writing, the editing, the index, the pictures, the layout, the printing, the marketing, the distribution, the e-book – the list goes on.

Last week I was re-testing soups and salads for the book and writing up the recipes – and Tom was of course taking more beautiful pictures of them. So we’ve had a few days at home of feasting on Lebanese herb salads, roast aubergine with pine nuts and sweet and sour dressing and rich and aromatic winter broths.

Then this week I’ve spent the last 2 days with the splendid Dave Jones of Windup films who has been making the film which will go at the top of the Kickstarter page – all the pictures on this page are images extracted from the film he is making.

Kickstarter is the crowd-funding platform which I’m going to use to fund the printing of the book. Kickstarter specializes in creative projects and at the top of each page the creator (that’s me in this case) does a short video to explain why his or her project is worth backing and what the backers will get in return.

So this 2 minute film is the key opportunity to explain why I think it’s a great book and to talk about the rewards that backers will get. Dave spent the first day filming in the café to give a picture of the environment that many of the recipes have come from and then the second day I did a piece to camera explaining why I think it’s a great book and why I hope people will want to back it. It was all a new experience for me. Sarah used her barristerial background to hone my script in advance and luckily, with clever film editing techniques, I only had to remember about one sentence at a time. There’s nothing like staring at a camera to make me forget what I was trying to say.

In a few days time I’ll get the finished film and I’ll post a link to it next time I do a blog – and don’t forget to put 1st May in your diaries which is the day the Kickstarter campaign goes live.

And now I need to get back to actually writing this book….

 

 

So here’s the plan…

 

pouring spianata dough

pouring spianata dough

It’s 20 years since I wrote a cookbook and I’d forgotten what a big project it is. And this time it’s both more exciting and more complicated since I’m publishing it myself and I’m planning to crowdfund the publication via Kickstarter.

I’ve so far had three day-long photo sessions with Tom Foxall (and there’s probably another 10 or so to go). Each session involves a day or so of planning and drafting the recipes – despite the fact that the basic arithmetic of the recipes has been tested over many years. Then there’s the day itself: Tom and I work out what backgrounds to shoot each dish against & whether any ‘work in progress’ photos would be helpful (e.g. this one of me pouring the Spianata dough). Then there’s the small matter of making the food, shooting it and clearing up – and of course distributing leftovers. Then I’ll have a day of re-writing the draft recipes and I’ll send them off to one of my team of testers. I’m hoping that most if not all of the recipes will have not only been tested many times at the cafes and in my own domestic kitchen but also by friends, family or café customers so that they are as user-friendly as possible. (If you fancy joining the team of testers then please send me an email) Then I’ll go through the text again alongside the photos from the day which Tom will have sent over to me.

A bit of the scheme for the book

A bit of the scheme for the book

Then eventually the text and photos go to the designers, Michael and Jack, and they begin to put the book together – including designing the cover, by which we will of course all judge it. When I saw Michael a couple of weeks ago he gave me a first draft of the scheme for the book with a square for each page (there’s an extract above). It gave me a real frisson of excitement. This book is going to happen. Once we get to the point (probably late spring 2017) when the text and photos are basically done then they go to Marianne, the editor, who will make sure my words make sense, correct the no doubt frequent grammatical errors and finally put together an index and table of contents. Then it’s all ready to go to the printers.

Spianata sandwich

Spianata sandwich

And then there’s a completely separate timeline (oh yes, I’ve got a spreadsheet for all of this!) for the crowdfunding side of things. Over the next few months I’ll be sending out emails about how Kickstarter works and what the process involves (if you’re not on one of our email lists and you’d like to be then please email me on bill@billscafes.co.uk). Then the plan is for the Kickstarter campaign to run during May 2017, the book to go to the printers in July and for it to be ready and in my hands by the end of September.

So in order to create a stick to beat myself I’m going public with the plan:

  • Now until May 2017 – write the book and photograph all the recipes and get feedback from my team of recipe testers
  • December 2016 to April 2017 – publicize the Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign and make sure people know how Kickstarter works and how they can join the project
  • 1st May 2017 Kickstarter campaign starts
  • 31st May 2017 Kickstarter campaign finishes
  • June 2017 The book is edited and the design titivated and finalized
  • July 2017 The book goes to the printers
  • End of September – the book is delivered and ready for sale

It all looks so simple written down like that in a list!

Do send me an email bill@billscafes.co.uk if you’ve got any comments or thoughts or you’d like to get involved in the recipe testing. In the meantime I’d better get back re-checking that Spianata recipe…

All Saints Fridays – for ever!

Great grub

Great grub!

There’s just 2 days to go until our first All Saints Friday. Crab, roast pork belly, roast squash salad, cranberry crème brulee. All sorts of delicious things and  incredibly reasonable prices complete with BYO (no corkage). Have a look at the full menu on http://www.cafeatallsaints.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/current-friday-eve-menu.jpg And if you don’t want to BYO we’ve got a short but delicious list of wine, beer and Herefordshire cider. We’re open from 6pm each Friday, so give us a call on 01432 370415 to book your table.

Hereford has suddenly become a city where people eat out in the evening. It used to be that you had to go to a country pub to get good grub in the evening but no longer. Rule of Tum (great burgers) Shack Revolution (superb British cocktails and pizza) and a couple of great tapas places – not to mention the vast number of chain places that have opened up at the Old Market. So we thought we’d join in the fun. The last couple of years we’ve opened on Friday and Saturday evenings in December and they look like being busier than ever this year. And so we feel the time is right to open permanently on Friday evenings at All Saints.

new table numbers by Holly

new table numbers by Holly

All Saints is a lovely place to come to in the evenings. Candles, a bit of music and really excellent simple food. And the table numbers – newly painted by my daughter Holly – add a note of brightness to each table!

This Friday Dean will be in the kitchen and I’ll be running the front of house – see you there!

Welsh food and bluebells

bluebell woods 034Yesterday Sarah and I headed for a bluebell wood just outside Crickhowell – a couple of miles from Abergavenny. We found the bluebells and they were truly spectacular even on a damp greyish day. But on the way there and back we also found masses of delicious food. I’m sorry if this piece is a bit like a puff for the Welsh Tourist Board, but we just found so much good stuff in such a short time.

To get to Crickhowell we drove through Hay-on-Wye and remembered just at the right moment that Thursday is market day. The fish stall had some sparkling fresh tuna and I got 5 generous steaks. Last night that became the star of a fresh tuna Salade Nicoise. I boiled some new potatoes and green beans (bought later in the day at Crickhowell) and tossed them with some baby gem and capers in a mustard & honey vinaigrette. I then soft boiled some of our neighbour’s hen’s eggs, quartered them and arranged them around the plates of salad. I seared the tuna steaks so they were still totally pink in the middle and plonked them in the middle of each plate of salad. Really delicious and simple.

Anyway, back to the market at Hay. So, after the fish stall I picked up a couple of marmande tomato plants at an organic veg stall (my son’s seedlings are looking disconcertingly dead so I thought a couple of fallback plants was a good plan) and a bag of mixed leaves including plenty of wild garlic and some mustard leaves.

On to Talgarth for lunch at The Bakers Table. If you don’t know this excellent café and working mill  and you live within reach of the Welsh Borders be sure to search it out.. We shared an excellent tapas plate. Both the Welsh brie (something I’d normally be suspicious of being a confirmed Brie-de-Meaux addict) and the parma ham were really very good as were their own breads (we bought a couple of loaves to take home). Having found that the parma ham came from the local butcher we stopped there next and bought 10 slices cut to order for an unbelievably reasonable £1.68. It turned out that the lady who runs the deli side of the business had been on the staff at our local farm shop in Herefordshire the day Sarah nearly gave birth to our daughter there 11 years previously. It’s a small world in the Herefordshire/Wales borders!

Anyway, from Talgarth we made our way to the bluebell woods at Coed-Cefn which luckily we didn’t have to pronounce. What a place. And then we had an hour at Tretower which combines a medieval manor house with a Norman castle and a beautiful garden.

Another food stop at a butcher’s in Crickhowell where I meant to just buy the veg for the Salade Nicoise, but was seduced by some deliciously dark looking welsh topside. The colour was such that you knew it had been properly hung – the ’28 day beef’ sign was much more than the marketing ploy if feels like sometimes. And finally a couple of Scotch eggs (from the Handmade Scotch Egg company) and pot of fantastically good home-made yoghurt made with milk from their own cows, at the Church Barn Farm Shop at Whitney-on-Wye.

We are so lucky to live where we do with so much delicious and real food. Hip Hip Hooray for Herefordshire and the Welsh borders!

December pizza evenings at All Saints

We’re opening on Friday and Saturday evenings in December at Café @ All Saints up until Christmas. If you love it and come in large enough numbers we may look at the possibility of more permanent and regular evening opening. So if you think you’d like to have All Saints open in the evening come and try these evenings. As well as great stone-baked pizzas we’ll be offering our daily changing specials and our utterly yummy Herefordshire beefburgers and smoked salmon fishcakes.

Last month I had a great evening with the team at The Mill at Talgarth http://www.talgarthmill.com/cafe/ making pizzas for one of their ‘Flicks in the Sticks’ evenings. The pizzas were excellent and there was a great atmosphere. And it made me think that we should try something like that at All Saints. When we’ve opened previously in the evenings at All Saints we’ve taken a slightly posh and formal route: a (delicious) set 3 course dinner with table service. But when we I go out to eat that’s not usually what I’m looking for. Sometimes I’m looking for something quick and sometimes I want to linger a bit, but what I’m looking for is great food at sensible prices in a relaxed atmosphere. I think that’s what we do every day at All Saints and at Michaelhouse – and so we want to try and achieve the same level of great quality at fair prices in the evenings at All Saints.

So, for our December pizza evenings all the main courses will cost less than £10 and freshly baked pizzas on our own dough (organic flour and extra virgin olive oil) will start at £6.50. We’re calling them ‘Herefordshire pizzas’ as some of them will star great local ingredients (Tudge’s smoked ham and Charlie Westhead’s goat’s cheese) as well as delicious stuff from further afield (buffalo mozzarella and Brindisa chorizo).

We’ll have our usual straightforward but excellent choice of wines, beers and ciders but if you want to BYO then you’re very welcome and we won’t charge corkage.

The service will be like in a pub: order your food and pick up your drinks at the counter and then we’ll bring the food to your table. The dates are:

Friday/Saturday 6/7 December
Friday/Saturday 13/14 December
Friday/Saturday 20/21 December

& we’ll be baking pizzas from 5pm on each evening.

No need to book – just turn up on the night. But if you’d like a table for 6 or more then give us a call on 01432 370415.

Come and try it – and let me know what you think

What’s next for Bill’s Cafes? Answers on a postcard please

As the sap is rising, the flowers are in bloom and the vegetables are growing, a cafe operator’s heart turns to new cafes.

Since I sold Café Below in May 2012 I’ve had a year without crises or huge challenges and it has been blissful. We’ve done all kinds of new little things at Michaelhouse and All Saints – new signage, great new beefburgers (blog to follow) and fishcakes (see previous blog entry) and other new recipes, free filtered tapwater at All Saints, an improved outside seating area at Michaelhouse, a new website in the pipeline – and I’ve had a much more relaxed life. More holidays, more time at home, more tennis, more cooking. Lots of good stuff.

But now I’m beginning to get itchy feet and I’m wondering: What’s next for Bill’s Cafes? I think that what we do at All Saints and Michaelhouse is really quite good and I think we could do it – or something similar – in some more locations. Masses of delicious food that’s genuinely home-made starring some unique local produce; served simply; at sensible prices. It’s a simplicity that isn’t that straightforward to achieve but we’ve become rather good at it.

So what should we do and where should we do it? And how should we do it?

One of my starting points is that I don’t want to spend my life travelling, so I’m especially keen to do new things that are within an hour’s drive of Hereford. That points to a relatively small number of towns: Gloucester, Cheltenham, Worcester, Ludlow, Monmouth – and maybe Malvern and Abergavenny.

What sort of site should we be looking for? To do the kind of thing that we do well with all the food made on site each day, we need a relatively large space. Both Michaelhouse and All Saints have seating for around 100 with extra seating outside and that kind of size works well for us. Ideally we’d like to have some extra space for comfy sofas as well as plenty of room for our kitchen and all the rest of the infrastructure that goes to make up a café: loos, storage, office, staff lockers etc etc.

It won’t have escaped your notice if you’re a regular customer at either of our current cafes that they are both in churches. These are wonderful places to operate in: we’re partners in great community enterprises located in extraordinarily beautiful buildings. However, I’m completely open to the idea of running future cafes in other buildings, whether in partnership with other organizations (such as theatres, cinemas, libraries or tourist information centres) or in more straightforward sites on the high street. Is there scope for a handful of our cafes in a string of towns up and down the Marches? I think it’s possible.

So, I’d love to hear from any of you who have got thoughts or suggestions about how we could do what we do in a few more places. Do you know a great site that we should be looking at? Do you know someone who would like to invest in an exciting new venture? Do you think I’m bonkers even to be thinking about all this? If we did have some cafes that were out in the big bad world of the High St what should we call them? What 2 or 3 words represent the heart of what we do?

Answers on a postcard or better still an email to: bill@billscafes.co.uk  And anyone who sends me truly exciting and fantastic answers definitely deserves a free lunch for two at whichever of our current cafes is nearer to you… 

 

Hereford Food Festival & Dinner at All Saints

Flavours of Herefordshire Food Festival

27th and 28th October 2012 with some events running from Monday 22nd October.

 We’re hugely excited that the annual Herefordshire food festival is for the first time taking place in centre of Hereford. There’s loads of delicious local food and celebrity chefs and more. For more information visit www.flavoursofherefordshire.com  Or pick up a brochure from the tourist information centre.

 Here at All Saints we’re celebrating in three different ways:

 All Saints Food Festival dinner

Friday 26th October from 7.30pm.

£27.50 for 3 course dinner + coffee

 Bill Sewell, founder and owner or Café @ All Saints and author of 2 acclaimed cookbooks, will be cooking a delicious autumn feast to celebrate the start of the Flavours Festival.

 

Festival dinner menu
Friday 26th October from 7.30pm

A shot of mushroom consommé with fresh coriander

Roast squash, ricotta and fresh thyme mousse, winter leaves and roast beetroot

Very slow-cooked spiced lamb shoulder with tabouleh and ratatouille
(alternatively the tabouleh and ratatouille can be served with baba ganoush and Charlie’s fresh goat’s cheese)

Chocolate and rosemary pot
(if you can’t cope with the idea of chocolate and rosemary we’ll have a selection of Shepherds superb ice creams available as an alternative)

 Email your booking to manager@cafeatallsaints.co.uk or call us on 01432 370415

Make your own bread workshops

Café @ All Saints provides the dough, you do the shaping and add the extras and see your own loaves/rolls cooked and ready to eat. It’s free but please feel free to make a donation to All Saints Church. Book your kids in for a session at 9.30am on Thursday and Friday 25th and 26th October  (to make a booking email us on manager@cafeatallsaints.co.uk ); 11am to 3pm Saturday 27th October: the Saturday session is open to all on a first come first served basis. For all three sessions participants will need to be at least 6. Parents will need to stay on the premises and will remain responsible for their children at all times!

Beef and ale trail

Compare and contrast the finest beef and ale pies that Hereford has to offer. Pick up a list of participating cafes, restaurants, pubs, delis, butchers and shops and enjoy delicious grub. Rate the pies you eat and help choose the King or Queen of Pie! Visit the food festival website www.flavoursofherefordshire.com or pick up a leaflet for further information.