An excellent treat for my birthday just gone: I was taken out for lunch to The Mash Inn in Radnage, Bucks and had a ten course tasting menu. I’m (possibly) ashamed to admit it was my first tasting multi-courser. A truly great experience, enhanced by the personal touch from chef Jon Parry who serves some courses himself and chats about them. Top marks for scallop (sadly only one), bog butter (peat bog, not what my initial thoughts were) slightly disappointing and a discovery of how to eat runner beans: raw, thinly sliced. And I left the table blissfully satiated and not at all stuffed which means the balance of the meal was perfect.
So in that vein I’ll suggest something a dot more fancy this week. I’m not going to persuade anyone (including myself) to dish out ten courses but sometimes small things make all the difference.
Roasted fish in salt crust is the stuff of posh restaurants but if you take up the challenge - and it's thoroughly doable - you’ll be rewarded with the loveliest, flaky and succulent fish. Try bream or bass in the salt crust – just make sure it comes with scales on.
Another, easier seafood option will be prawns with stewed tomatoes. Tomato season is upon us – get the ripest ones.
Duck stir fry sounds ordinary but it gains an extra dimension if you take the trouble to fry the skin separately into duck scratchings. And boring old pork loin roast will taste truly amazing when paired with blueberry sauce. And the leftovers can be spooned over vanilla ice cream for dessert - sauce, not the pork leftovers.
A veggie pasta bake, penne with leeks and mushrooms will improve if you swap the oyster mushrooms from the recipe with wild girolles or ceps, if you’re lucky to get some. And a starter or lunch of puff pastry tartlets may come in a meaty, fishy or spinachy versions.
For dessert try the white chocolate kladdkaka, the gooey Scandi chocolate dessert – not only exquisite but silly easy to make as well. And if your lot are not chocolate fans (I know, some people are weird, myself included), you can do worse than a rhubarb fool, or blueberry fool, or raspberry fool, or redcurrant fool, or…