Toad in the hole and steak of venison

After a bit of a week feeling like I was followed around by a cold, too much to do to lay down and give in but a bit of a struggle and the pace was not quite what it normally is.

Friday night we were invited to friends for dinner, I had no idea what to expect and was delighted to find out I was about to have my first ever Toad in the hole! No one has ever cooked that for me and it was served with some lovely wine and made a perfect ending to the working week and the best start of the weekend!
The dinner was started off with a crayfish salad, very fresh and lovely. After that we had Toad in the hole with sweet potato mash, greens and onion gravy. I managed 2 sausages and almost all of the mash before I had to declare myself beaten (and after lots of gravy!), with only some tiny spare room for the dessert, Eaton Mess. It was the perfect November dinner, hearty, warming and the food, the wine and nice company eased the stress away and I had a truly good time. Thank you!

Saturday morning I was feeling slightly less rosy as the vino effect was wearing off and I had to get up and going as had a cooking class at Cucina Caldese. I have to admit I might have muttered some on the way but once there I was all worthwhile! I have previously done a pasta making class with Aldo Zilli but I think perhaps for my taste there was slightly too much “macho” and it took some of the inspirational edge away. At Cucina Caldese I was meet by Ursula Ferringo and her adorable daughter, inspirational just through the sheer passion and positive energy!

We kicked off with Ursula set a dough for focaccia for lunch, what a treat! The course was all about Italian inspired Christmas gifts. I came away with lots of goodies having made Salamonia Bolognese, a spiced salt that takes about 7 days to mature and lasts for months, perfect for spicing any meat you can think of. I smelled the one already done and it made me think of roast chicken, maybe this will be my first experiment!
We baked twice baked biscotti, I think it was ok but even better with nutella on! I am still to try it with sweet wine.
I have the start of Lemoncello in a jar, it takes 20 days and will make a perfect Christmas gift in a hamper. As I have the recipe am sure I will make more!
I cook pretty much everything and I bake almost nothing, so when Ursula spontaneously decided we were to make grissini I was very glad about it. Needless to say it was lovey and just perfect to go with the soup for lunch.
We ended the session by making Panforte di Siena, a recipe from the middle ages, eaten by Roman soldiers to give strength and energy to fight whoever came in their way, or as someone put it “the Romans equivalent of a snickers bar!”
The last thing we prepared was figs stuffed with toasted almonds and dipped in the darkest chocolate.
It was a wonderful way to spend the day and everyone else attending the class seemed great fun!
I had a vague idea of going shopping afterwards, not much, just a peak and perhaps some inspiration to get some Christmas pressies but London was totally crowded and I fled back home as fast as I could with the first determination to do as much of my Christmas shopping as possible online! It will only get worse from here and am not sure I am up for it.

In the evening we went out with some friends at the ever gorgeous Noura Central. We had Lebanese meze as a starter and the moved on to grilled meats and lots of their new baked breads. All washed down with soft and lovely Lebanese red wine. It was great and afterwards we went for a walk up Regent Street looking at all the Christmas lights and decorations! It was lovely.

Sundays are made for chilling out. I cooked chicken livers for breakfast for the little dogs (their favourite) and then had bacon and eggs myself with freshly baked (not by me, from the shop) bread. Weekend for everyone!
The last day of the week is the only day this week I actually had time to cook myself. I cooked a salt baked steak of venison, the salt crust didn’t quite come out as I had hoped but it did the job and the venison turned out lovely.
To go with it I made rösti from golden beetroot and potato, I blanched and marinated florets of cauliflower, I did a tomato and shallot onion salad and a Brussels sprout coleslaw with chilli and served with smooth pear butter. It was perfect with a bottle of Pinot Noir. Now it is time for a movie and early to bed, another busy week ahead.

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