Which English Sparkling Wine?

If you have been to your local supermarket recently to buy some Processo, you might have been disappointed. Demand for the stuff is far outstripping supply and supermarkets are struggling to get their mits on the UKs must have drink. So what’s the next best alternative if you find yourself at the shops without your fav tipple? Have you ever considered English sparkling wine? Here are a few of our recommendations.

Bluebell Vineyards Blanc de Blancs 2010/11

The original 4ha of Bluebell Vineyards were planted in 2005 on the fringes of the Ashdown Forest, East Sussex. This vibrant Blanc de Blancs uses the estate`s best grapes, slowly matured to capture a fine mousse and crisp citrus palate preceded by aromas of quince, brioche and elderflower.

Grapes: Chardonnay

Hindleap Rose Bluebell Vineyard Estates Sussex 2011

Produced by the traditional method, this elegant pale sparkling rosé has been blended from the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay varieties to capture a crisp fresh fruitiness, lending hints of red berries on the nose and a succulent citrus palate.

Grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay

Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rose Brut 2012

Camel Valley is located near Bodmin, Cornwall. With vineyards planted in 1989, they are one of the top producers of English Sparkling Wine. A lovely rose with characteristic aromas of wild strawberries and raspberries. The palate is very well balanced with fresh notes of summer fruits combined with a pure and refreshing acidity. The mousse is creamy and the red fruit flavours linger on the palate.

Grapes: Pinot Noir

Denbies Whitedowns NV

Denbies, located on the North Downs in Dorking, Surrey, has been producing wine since the 1980’s, with the largest Vineyard area in England (265 acres). This is a rich floral and fresh English fizz with delicate spice on the finish. Rich, yeasty and sophisticated this is a seriously classy wine.

Grapes: Chardonnay, Dornfelder

Want to know more? Give us a call at the office on 0207 731 5282.

How to Host a Brazilian BBQ

The Olympic Games this year are fast approaching and with the sun shining here in London, what better way to get into the Brazilian spirit than by hosting a BBQ with a Latin twist.

The Brazilians are not only famous for their love of Carnival but also for their love of grilled meat. The Churrasco, as native Brazilians refer to the BBQ is a staple part of their diet. So to get you in the mood to Samba your way through the games, we’ve put together a short guide to creating a sizzling hot BBQ guaranteed to be a hit.

Food & Drink

A typical Churrasco will feature a variety of highly seasoned meats on skews. Pop down to your local butcher and pick up a selection of cuts including pork, chicken, beef (fraldinha aka flank) and lamb. Picanha is also commonplace in Brazil.
Chicken hearts feature predominantly at a Churrasco but may not be met with same enthusiasm at a British BBQ. However, should you want to serve chicken hearts here is how to prepare them.

It’s worth noting, that some butchers offer ready skewed meats. This can be a great option and can be a real time saver on the prep front. For a Brazilian style spice mix, try blending and rubbing your meat with paprika, ginger, salt, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander seed, coriander leaf, allspice, cinnamon, pepper and chilli. Add a small amount of olive oil for easy coverage.

Drinks

The national cocktail of Brazil is the Caipirinha, pronounced ‘Kie-Pur-Reen-Yah. Its made from cachaça (derived from fermented sugarcane), sugar and lime. The drink is prepared by smashing the fruit and the sugar together, and adding the liquor. It quite a nice touch to serve this in a punch bowl so guests can help themselves.
Should the Caipirinha not tickle your fancy, try one of these instead.

Side dishes

Here are two side dishes, rated in the top 10 best Brazilian recipes by The Guardian, to be eaten alongside your meaty medley.

Pão de queijo – small baked cheese rolls.

Makes around 20-25

Ingredients

  • 100ml milk
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 250g tapioca flour
  • 125g parmesan or vegetarian alternative, grated
  • 1 free-range egg

Method

  1. Boil the milk with the oil and the salt, remove from the heat, put all the tapioca flour at once in the pan and mix well.
  2. Add the cheese and the egg and beat the dough until smooth, then knead into a ball shape.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Let the dough cool enough to handle, then grease your hands with some oil, take small portions of dough and form golf-sized balls.
  4. Line a tray with greaseproof paper and space the balls 2cm apart. Bake for about 20 minutes, until they are puffed and are golden. Serve warm.

Feijoada – sliced spring greens with sausages, rice and garlic

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1kg dried black beans
  • 400g sun-dried beef, cut into pieces, or 400g smoked pork ribs
  • 400g smoked bacon, cut into chunks
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 300g large smoked sausages, cut into big chunks (Portuguese sausage is best, but chorizo will do)
  • 300g small Portuguese spicy sausage or n’duja (regular sausages will suffice here if neither spicy versions can be found)
  • 400g salted pork ribs (or any other cut of pork on the bone from the butcher)
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 orange, peeled, whole
  • 1 shot of cachaça (optional, but recommended)
  • 1 orange to serve, peeled and segmented

Method

  1. In separate bowls, soak the beans, the sun-dried beef or smoked pork ribs (whichever you are using) and the smoked bacon overnight in cold water. Change the water in the morning and continue soaking to get rid of excess fat and salt.
  2. Drain the beans and put them in a very large saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer for 30 minutes until tender.
  3. Rinse the soaked sun-dried beef (or smoked pork ribs) and smoked bacon well, add to the beans and cook for a further 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a very large, heavy saucepan and pour in the olive oil, so it entirely covers the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened. Add the sausages, salted pork ribs, black pepper and bay leaves. Pour in the cooked beans and meat and top up with water to cover them. Place the peeled orange in the centre of the pot. Let the stew simmer for 1½–2 hours or more, topping up with water as necessary, until the meat falls off the bone. Just before serving, fish out the bay leaves, add a shot of cachaça and serve with the orange segments.

Furniture & Decorations

Your guests will of course need somewhere to sit. Work out roughly how many chairs you will need. Ask the neighbours and even your guests if you don’t have enough.

If your garden is in direct sunlight, you should provide your guests with a shady option. A large parasol or gazebo should provide adequate cover.

Colour inspiration for tableware and decor can be drawn from the Brazilian flag. Think yellow, green and blue. Party Delights stock a variety of party supplies in these colours. Why not collect your ideas using a Pinterest board like this one.

Music & Entertainment

Aside from watching the games themselves, the Samba can conjure up the Carnival spirit at your BBQ. Said to be an iconic symbol of Brazil and the Brazilian Carnival, this musical genre and dance style can help get the party started. Spotify have numerous ready-made playlists. Just search for ‘samba’ and try some out.

Image sources from top to bottom: BBQ Meats,Caipirinha, Chicken Hearts, Feijoada, Pão de queijo, Carnival

Laying your table – which table linen should you choose?

Vintage or modern? Stripes or plain? Runner or overlay? Short or long? Speciality or polyester fabrics? The options are endless. A great starting point is to decide whether the gathering you are catering for is a formal or informal event. There are a whole host of websites across the internet that offer advice and tips on how to design your table layout to create your desired atmosphere. Drawing from our own personal experience of catering for corporate clients, weddings and celebrations at various venues, we have put together our own tips on helping you select the right table linen.

Before purchasing any table linen, decide if it might be more economical to hire the linen. If its a one-off event you are putting on, it might be more cost-effective to hire your table linen from someone like Northfields. Northfields have been providing quality table linen to restaurants and caterers since 1952. Based in Stoke Newington, Northfields have a massive range of linen, runners, overlays, chair covers and accessories.

Formal Dining

Focus on the style and atmosphere you want to create. At formal gatherings, you will commonly see table linen in whites, ivory and ecru. Occassionally you will see pastel colours at a formal setting. Any fabric patterns tend to be small and subtle with motifs that do not distract away from the tableware itself. The textures associated with formal dining are of quality finishes such as smooth-porcelain, crystal and silver so an appropriate tablecloth might be one which is woven with a satin sheen like Damask. For continuity purposes the tablecloth should match the napkins. Learn how to fold your napkins into a Bird of Paradise. This will really wow your guests.

At formal dinners, the table overhang tends to be long and luxurious. Bear this in mind when ordering your linen. Know the size of the table you are covering and then add roughly 10 to 15 inches so that when the diner sits down the overhang will tuck under the table and a napkin can rest on the lap easily. If your tables have unsightly metal legs, a deep overhang will cover these too.

To further add to the feeling of luxury, you may want to add a silence cloth underneath your table cloth. This is a protective pad that insulates the table from noise.

Informal Dining

With informal dining, the focus should be more on relaxing and fun so let your imagination run wild. OK, not too wild but you can be more free with using dark and contrasting colours. Pay attention to the colour of the room you are hosting your event in. If the wallpaper is highly decorative and bold, consider using a colour that will accent the decor. However, if the room has a subtle design theme and small-scaled patterns, go with a simple patterned tablecloth to emphasize the setting.

The tablecloth overhang at informal diners, tends to be shorter. Apportion no more than 10 inches to your cloth size for overhang unless you are using lace, as the drop can be longer here.

Below are some images from events we have catered for. We hope you can take some table design inspiration from them.


Images provided by Matt Chung

Eggstravaganza – Our Top Tips for Easter Egg Hunts in London

Easter weekend is fast approaching and we have put together a guide on the top places in and around London hosting Easter Egg hunts. And best of all, its not just for the kids! So put your sleuthing skills to the test and your eyes peeled for brightly coloured eggs at some of London’s best parks.

  1. Battersea Park
    Inside Battersea Park is a great children’s Zoo which is running Easter Egg hunts from March 25-28th. These egg hunts have a quiz to help you solve the location of eggs within the animal enclosures. Little ones can help zoo keepers prepare egg shaped feed for the animals. Most activities are free here.

    TOP TIP: Why not take a tour of The Pump House Gallery whilst you are there too.

    How to get there

  2. Holland Park
    Every year Holland Park hosts an egg hunt and this year is no different. On April 5th, search the wildlife area for eggs hidden by the Easter bunny. Entrance fee is £5 and pre-booking is advisable.

    TOP TIP: Pop into the Cooks & Partners Holland Park Café for a much needed rest. Or The Orangery and see who is playing on the bandstand.

    How to get there

  3. Greenwich
    Ahoy chocolate lovers! The Cutty Sark is hosting nautical egg hunts with eggs hidden all over this famous ship. These hunts are free to those who have paid admittance to the attraction and run from 25th to the 28th March.

    TOP TIP: After a rest stop? Why not take a short stroll to Rangers House

    How to get there

  4. Olympic Park
    Sick of the sight of chocolate? If an egg hunt isn’t for you, pop down to the Olympic Park for a Bunny Fun Run. Open to all ages and abilities, participates can choose to run 1k, 3k or 5k. There will be a goody bag for children at the finish line. The Easter Bunny will also be there too so keep an eye out. To register call 0300 124 0123 or for more information please contact Coral Nourrice on 0771 839 4756 or at cnourrice@englandathletics.org

    TOP TIP: Grab a coffee at the Velodrone Café.

    How to get there

  5. St James Park
    Running throughout Easter weekend, there will be an egg trial in St James Park. Trial sheets are available from the ParkLife Café and for those that successfully complete the trial get a small prize.

    TOP TIP: Visit the historic Lancaster House

    How to get there

Happy Egg Hunting from Cooks & Partners.

Christmas Clementine’s at The Orangery

Here at Cooks & Partners we have been busy putting on a whole range of Christmas parties for a variety of clients. Our most prestigious party this month was a 3 day event at The Orangery Holland Park. We chose the Clementine as a theme and what better venue choice to celebrate this awesome citrus than at an Orangery.

Ignoring the winter cold we added heaters, trees and citrus scents to bring to life the Valencian Orchard setting. Adding small twists such as hessian napkins, leaves and foliage helped us further to bring the outside in.

As at any party event put on by Cooks & Partners, the food is key to its success. Our chefs and menu planning team worked closely with the client to cleverly incorporate the Clementine into its dishes for 48 guests. Here are our guest’s top favs of the night:

  • Brioche, fermented mushroom & clementine
  • Squash, Clementine Curd and Brassicas
  • Scallops Barbecued over Clementine and Juniper
  • Smashing Clementine Leaf

And of course, the unforgettable desert where guests had to use their toffee hammers to smash through a wafer of meringue to get into their pud. What fun!

More about The Orangery

The Orangery at Holland Park is surrounded by the elegant formal gardens of Kensington Palace and is an ideal venue choice for a special gathering. Once the setting for Queen Anne’s court entertainment its features are grand and true to 18th century architecture.

Much time goes into creating the right style and menu for our client’s events. If you are interested in viewing this venue for a function, please call the office on 0207 731 5282

Feeling inspired by our creations? Share your Clementine masterpieces and tag us on Twitter. using the handle @Cooks_Partners

Photographs by Matt Chung.