Sunday, 23 February 2014

five days a week I masquerade as a chef !

We occasionally open for evening meals in the café where I work. Normally we open from 9 to 5 (with longer hours in the summer), but we do small parties and the odd special event. The second chef (Ferri) is Iranian so we did a Persian night last October. We can only seat 24, but it's all a bit frantic providing starters, mains and desserts in our tiny kitchen.
The Persian evening was great fun and the customers loved the food. Ferri brought in a samovar and beautiful cups for tea and sweet treats to serve after the meal.

I did a tapas night in December, on the week of my big birthday. It was once again rather frantic because there were up to seven dishes each and then two desserts, so I didn't take any pictures. Thankfully I had Ferri to help, I couldn't have done it without her (we also always have another lady, Sally, who does the drinks, serving and washing up !).

A couple of weeks ago some regulars asked if we were doing something for Valentines, but we hadn't planned anything. Then another couple asked, so we thought we'd better !

I put on three starters, two main dishes plus a couple of mains from the usual menu and three desserts. I didn't want to make up loads of things that we wouldn't be able to sell after, and also there isn't much room in our fridges for extra stuff.

This was my favourite starter, a stack of mozzarella, tomato and basil, in a heart shape with a drizzle of olive oil, some black pepper and a balsamic glaze. The whole menu is on the café's facebook if you wish to see it. We did all sorts of things with hearts - manchego cheese crisps for the vegetarian puy lentil dish,

heart shaped beef patties for Ferri's Persian starter and more fresh manchego cheese hearts that we served with serrano ham. Then there were lots of hearts in the desserts.
I made my favourite baked cheesecake, a recipe that I haven't made for about 10 years and which I originally found about 30 years ago. It's a wonderful American recipe with cups for measurements that I changed into our more usual ounces.
I didn't quite put enough melted butter into the biscuit base, but it was ok when served, especially with the heart strawberries (an idea I stole from Danielle at Silver Pennies).
Another favourite dessert I made was Lemon Posset, Raspberry Coulis and Brandy Snaps but maybe I shall do a post on this because I forgot to take a picture of the finished result and it really is scrumptious.
The best bit and my favourite bit had nothing to do with the cooking, I much prefer decorating the café !!!
I painted some lining paper with a match pot of black paint, made a template and drew round it to make heart shaped tablemats for everyone who had booked Valentines night.
They worked well with the red paper we always use on the tables. We had red candles, flowers and chocolate hearts and it all looked really pretty (in our own shabby, beachy, coastal way !!).

We only had 7 couples booked in, so that there was a more romantic feel to the evening with everyone having their own table.

The artist (David) I spoke about here, has recently stencilled our logo onto the floor, and the boss has given us the go ahead to paint the chairs and re-cover the seats. I say 'us' but I mean 'me' because David wants to help painting the fabric, but not the chairs, so it might take some time. At work I'm always cooking and on days off I'd rather be doing my own house.

You can't really tell from my dreadful photos, but it really did look lovely and it's thanks to a great couple Graeme and Sophie who love to sit in the old cinema seats, that the night actually went ahead !

Why am I masquerading ? Because I'm not a professional chef, and I would much rather be painting blackboard hearts and making heart daisy chains than thinking up menus, but unfortunately I have to pay the bills !!!


  1. I'm so impressed with your international cuisine, Fiona! Everything looks delish and your holiday decor must have made your patrons feel extra-special. I hope you get some much needed time off to pursue your artistic dreams and work on your home improvement projects. It's darn hard to find time for yourself when you're working full-time!

  2. Fiona!

    My you've been busy! Whether you are cooking up new menus for special occasions, setting these pretty Valentine's day tables or painting furniture, you are constantly creating, because that's what YOU do, with a dash of delight!

    The cafe looks beautiful; would love to visit one day. If I could masquerade five days a week, I'd bake pretty cakes in my own bakery/cafe, enjoying the conversation with my customers, and write about the whimsy side of life at night!

    Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing and have a lovely week!

    PS: I gather your area was not affected by those awful floods, thank goodness!

  3. What a fun and interesting café Fiona. I would love to have a place near me that did up international meals and put such a personal effort into it at the same time. Your place seems like one of those cafés that become a favourite "haunt" for people.

  4. I didn't get my invite for the evening. I would have loved to join you.

    Everything, including the floor, looks great.

    And the food looks yummy.

  5. It all sounds kind of fun to me. But I'm sure it's hard work. And it wouldn't be a replacement for doing stuff for your own home...

  6. You masquerade well! The clientele and the owner are lucky to have you to make things so special for the patrons.

  7. Fiona,
    I hope everyone in the café know how lucky they are to have you. Your food looks delicious and your Valentine setting so cute that for once I wish I had someone to eat at the café for Valentine's Day!

  8. it's all very charming, fiona:) esp. love the cute place mats. the decorations and food (cheesecake-yum) must have made the night wonderful for your customers! have a great week!

  9. Girl, if you are paying the bills with your mad cooking skills, then that makes you a professional chef in my book! So many intriguing recipes here. Love those cheese hearts. And cheese cake..yumm! (Sorry we Americans totally revolted against the metric thing! LOL! We're a stubborn lot!) I think your cafe will look even more charming with the painted chairs and tables. I hope you'll share some recipes soon as they look perfectly delicious!

  10. Looks like a lovely Valentine's celebration! And the food looks great!

  11. I was just wondering how your chef career was going. I'd say pretty well with the look of that wonderful food! That cafe is very lucky to have someone who not only whips up fabulous menus, but designs and implements amazing decor as well. Did they get to take the cute placemats home with them?


It's always a pleasure to receive your comments. I really enjoy reading them, and a huge thank you if you are following as well !