Monday, 13 February 2012

The Christening Weekend

It has been a long and exhausting weekend.  We have had guests from as far afield as Poole and Edinburgh.  In total 6 adults and 3 children (toddlers and babies) all managed to sleep in our little house in South Leeds without any bloodshed or arguments.  We also managed to organise a table for our household plus an additional 8 grown-ups in one of Leeds' many superb pubs for Sunday Lunch.

"Why did you do all of this?" I hear you ask.  The clue is in the title but allow me to delve into more detail.  Sunday 12th February 2012 was the date that my first born son was baptised.  I'm not overtly religious but I am a traditionalist at heart.  I was baptised as a child and I have Godparents, I am a Godparent myself to my beautiful niece.  Z and I were married in a church not a field.  I take no umbrage at field weddings, I have been to two and they were both really good weddings, but they are not for me.

I am however, getting ahead of myself.  Due to the arrival of various family members at varying times this blog has taken a hit.  I have not had time to update Tonight's Menu since last Wednesday, tonight I aim to make amends.

Thursday 9th February
Penne with Leeks

The first of our guests to arrive for the weekend would be my Mum*.  She wouldn't get into Leeds until late on Friday but that left precious little time for giving the house the kind of clean reserved for royalty and Mothers-in-law.  To facilitate the uber-hoover we needed a quick meal.

After the curry a few nights ago, all that was left in the fridge by the way of vegetables was a solitary leek.  The leek was shredded and fried in butter.  I added the end of the roast pork from the weekend and controversially two leftover sage and onion stuffing balls.  The stuffing worked as great seasoning.  The sauce was finished with half a pot of crème fraiche and stirred through penne pasta.

Friday 10th February
Friday Night Take-away - Beef and Green Peppers in Black Bean Sauce

Incoming relatives or no incoming relatives, there are some things that just don't change.  Our ongoing tradition to eat home-made take-away style food on Friday nights is normally one of the highlights of the week.  For obvious reasons there is a food-eclipsing highlight this week.  This simple stir-fry was very good though.

Strips of rump steak were fried with a small onion and a green pepper before some superb black bean and chilli sauce was added.  I have said it before and I'll probably say it again, Leeds has some very good Chinese supermarkets.  There is no excuse for poor sauces in this city.

Saturday 11th February

On Saturday we were joined by the remainder of our house guests.  My little brother, his wife and two children arrived around lunch time.  There was no way that we could transport them all home from Leeds Railway Station so Graeme and I fell on our swords and walked home.  We did have one task to complete on our journey and that was to deliver the Christening cake to the pub for Sunday.

Somehow we lost a couple of hours on our way home.  By the time we got back Z had already started cooking the evening meal.  With 6 adults to feed we decided that a single pot of a slow cooked stew would be the way forward, an 'everything thrown in together and ignore' type dish.  This way we managed to spend some quality time together before we sat down for a meal.

As luck would have it, a chance conversation with my German caretaker brought up the subject of goulash.  I haven't had goulash since school dinners way back in the annals of time.  The recipe he gave me was simplicity itself.  Equal quantities of beef and pork (I got braising steak and pork shoulder), two onions, three peppers, two tins of tomatoes and stock.

I had been told to season and add herbs that I like, this really is my kind or recipe.  The one thing I was told I couldn't leave out is paprika.  I was also told that the longer it cooked the better.  In total we probably cooked the goulash for 4 hours.  I wish we had rediscovered goulash earlier during winter.  I have a feeling that we'll not cook this again for sometime but I will be looking forward to it.

Sunday 12th February
Roast Beef

The big day finally arrived for us.  We knew that we wanted to have R christened even before we knew what gender he was but I was still nervous.  What if he cried in church?  What if he refused to go to the Minister?  What if he had one of those delightful accidents that can clear rooms?  I should have known that R would do me proud and that I would have nothing to worry about but I reserve the right to worry.

We had held a full on kiddie party, including a finger buffet, for R's first birthday so we didn't need to go there, again**.  As I pointed out earlier I'm a traditional kinda guy and I really wanted a family occasion on a Sunday to include a Sunday Lunch.  We had booked a table for 19 at The Midnight Bell, Leeds Brewery's flagship pub.

This is not a review site so if you would like to see a review of The Midnight Bell's Sunday offerings you will have to check elsewhere.  However, I will go on record to say that the food was superb, the beer was awesome and the staff couldn't have been more helpful.  R and I shared my starter of spiced whitebait and he let me have most of my roast beef with all the trimmings.

We bought the cake from Donna Makes Cakes, an independent cake maker and decorator from Belle Isle, after a recommendation from a friend.  Donna worked with Z's brief to make a stunning chocolate mud cake that really finished off the meal.  Back at home we finished the day grazing on cheese and biscuits.

Monday 13th February
Gnocchi with Pesto

The final meal in our marathon weekend was another that needed to take no time to prepare and moments to cook.  Mum's train back to Auld Reekie (that's Edinburgh, not an elderly dog), Z's evening of babysitting and R's bed time were all due at 7pm.

Another food blogger, Big Spoon, Little Spoon, had cooked gnocchi last weekend and inspired me.  I know Mum doesn't like goats cheese so I decided to use pesto for the sauce and added some chicken and tomatoes.  This was the first time Mum had eaten gnocchi so it's a shame they were shop bought and not that great.  Later in the year I'll be making huge batches from scratch so I'll cook her some more then.

All told I have had a brilliant yet exhausting weekend.  If you were involved in any part of it, guest, host, family or friend; thanks. It wouldn't have been the same without you.

*Hello Mum.
**Nor will be going there again any time soon.

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