This year’s menu is much more simple and straight-forward than last year and we haven’t had the catastrophe of leaving the chocolate brownies and dauphinoise potatoes in the oven for 4 hours whilst we basked in the sunshine with galettes and pichet of vin blanc. That’s not say that we have nothing to hide from guests. Fortunately they have nothing with which to compare so don’t realise that the shortbread for afternoon tea is different each week, who knows why?or that the tomato soup recipe doesn’t really exist and varies depending on which one of us makes it or what is left over, same the vegetable soup. It is also easy to become complacent or over-familiar with routines and forgetting significant aspects, was that this week or last week? As we approach the end of the season, here are a few of our confessions.
Brioche bread and butter pudding is a quick and easy favourite of ours to make although not always as well received as we would expect except that perhaps, people genuinely are full and the thought of a rich heavy pudding is over whelming. As we were into our 12th week I am getting complacent about referring to the recipes and on this occasion, couldn’t work out why the pudding wasn’t rising as much as usual when I suddenly remembered that I’d forgotten to include the eggs in the milk mixture. It was too late to rectify the situation as we were already serving the main course. However, this time it proved the most popular of the season with minimal left overs. Perhaps I should omit the eggs each week!
Early in the season a few of the cartons of UHT milk seemed to be rather ‘bitty’. They tasted ok, well as ok as it could but the floaty bits in the tea and coffee didn’t look too good, as some of our guests identified; an Aussie Dad with his 2 daughters as well as Tim, owner, and his 2 mates, who didn’t notice or at least, didn’t comment. We checked the sell-by date and it was still within by about 3 months. Anyway, the problem disappeared with subsequent cartons so we thought little of it until another carton, within the same week, displayed similar traits. Closer inspection revealed that the date on the carton was 2015 not 16! Oops! It probably wasn’t the reason but felt like some retribution for the total absence of a tip at the end of the week.
There is often food left over after the main meal, despite our little portions getting syphoned off into plastic (wee) dishes, Mum you’d be proud of me! In an abhorrence of waste, we freeze all these leavings over and periodically combine them to produce a meal of sufficient size to accommodate the required numbers. As it is advertised that the food is cooked fresh we do have to be discrete about this and hope that no-one has noticed that they are getting a recycled conglomeration of others’ rejects. We have even resorted to hiding it in the oven over-night in the hope that we, at least, will remember to remove said dishes before turning it on to cook the breakfast pastries. We do, mostly.
We took some pre-cooked frozen Thai green curry out the freezer one night to have the following day. We only had 6 people so the ‘left-over’ portions would be adequate. We placed them in a sturdy Tupperware container with the lid on so prying eyes wouldn’t see and put the container on top of the slow cooker in the corner. When checking their state of de-frosting the following morning we found them to be simmering gently away! We had forgotten to turn off and unplug the slow-cooker from the previous day. These slow-cookers are quite fierce, particularly for their ilk (provided no-one has inadvertently knocked out the plug!) and how the Tupperware didn’t end up melting is still a mystery but is perhaps testament to its sturdiness and longevity! The guests, including owner, didn’t seem any the wiser or perhaps just too polite.
On changeover day we can prepare any or all of the 3 courses at any time during the day. This is convenient due to the varied departure times. If the group are aiming to leave around check-out at 9.30-10am we can crack on with preparing the evening meal as we can’t start the rooms until later, or vice-versa. On this occasion the meal was prepared and put on the side out of the way, bringing it back to the fore as dinner time approached. During the afternoon this particular group were enquiring about that night’s menu and voiced their delighted with the provision. As they sat down at 7pm for their starter someone, very fortunately, stated how much they were looking forward to the apple crumble. It was still sat on the side, enough for 14, so a not inconsiderable quantity of completely raw apples! The jacket potatoes were still in the oven but had to be sacrificed as the temperature was walloped up in order to have the crumble cooked in 30mins flat! They seemed to enjoy it or were being extra polite at not voicing their disappointment but still gave us a decent tip.
We use frozen fruit for the Eton Mess. If I take it out the freezer in the morning it is rather mushy by the evening. If I wait until we go back in the evening it is barely thawed before serving and distinctly chilly. I have found the optimum treatment but can only utilise this technique if guests aren’t using the sauna! On our evening return, putting it all into a dish and then placing it in a warm, but cooling down sauna produces the right amount of thaw in the time available. I haven’t yet dared to use this process when guests are actually in the sauna!
All the dishes, pans and utensils take quite a battering during this intensive period but one would have thought that an enamel casserole dish was fairly indestructible but apparently not. This 8 litre pan has been in almost daily use since December but decided to roll-over and die one night whilst full of broccoli soup, unbeknown to us until Roger was serving the penultimate portion. The soup was well received but we still aren’t sure whether this was because of or despite our secret ingredient, a large section of the enamel off the bottom of the pan! Well, at least it should strengthen their teeth, any left that it didn’t break.
After all these weeks we are getting pretty slick at delivering this menu but there is only so much time you can shave off preparation and cooking times. However, when Scotland are in the process of beating France in the 6 Nations rugby it is amazing what can be accomplished in 1hour 10mins. We managed a 3 course meal for 11 people and ended up waiting for them to serve up! Little did they realise how quickly their dinner had been thrown together after we ran out the bar (tab to be settled later, thanks Vicky) and down the hill, slipping and sliding down the treacherous path. Fortunately Roger had already chopped the onions for the pasta bolognaise, the mushrooms had thawed for the creamy garlic mushrooms on toast (and we remembered about the lactose intolerant and vegetarian) and the brioche bread and butter pudding was soft enough in time and even included egg.
We still have 3 weeks to go so who knows what might happen in that time but next time you are eating out, just remember and consider what may be going on behind the kitchen doors which we don’t even have!