Saturday, 28 November 2015

Rocky Times

Who knew when I was finishing off last months column what a rocky few weeks lay ahead, its almost as though I could use the first paragraph of last months column to express my views of the wonderful people of Bampton and surrounding areas again too.

Whilst some of you might know, Paul and I had headed of to Cornwall for a few days break, a bit of brain storming for new menu ideas and plans for the winter and generally a bit of ‘us time’, within 2 days Paul was staying in Truro hospital with suspected pneumonia and being tested for all sorts of other things, I returned to the Swan on the Thursday to do an interview for the Devon Life Awards, yes Paul got out of that one again!!

I returned to Cornwall on Friday in the hope that Paul might be coming home, only to find him on a ward with no signs of improvement, I returned home to check on team Swan and finish of my column. Saturday I returned to find that Paul been moved to intensive care and was in an induced coma, with machines beeping, flashing and generally keeping him alive.
With a quick phone call to his parents, who were just ready to board a plane for Turkey, we all returned to The Swan.  The following week turned into the longest of my life, with nothing that I could do for Paul I threw myself back into the kitchen, by Thursday Paul was stable and improving very slowly and I suddenly lost Tom one of our other chefs who too was hospitalized with another case of suspected pneumonia, with offers of help and overwhelming support from family, friends, customers and others in the trade, we got through.

After a week of being in a coma the hospital started to bring Paul back around, by Monday I was back in Truro and speaking with Paul who had just had a slice of toast, his first food in over a week, on the Tuesday he was back home, albeit very weak and unsteady, tired and a little confused, nearly 2 weeks on he is making a steady return to the Paul we all know, but it’s going to take sometime for normal service to resume.

Meanwhile the Swan continues, as always with our passion for good food and drink and of course a warm welcome.

Thursday 5th sees our first award ceremony at Sandy Park for Devon Life food and drink Awards, closely followed by a trip to Padstow on Monday 9th to Rick Steins for The Trenchermans Guide Awards, with The Tourism awards in Plymouth towards the end of the month, so there are plenty of things for Paul to get himself well for.

Obviously with everything going on all the changes that we had been planning have taken a bit of a back seat, we have managed to change a few dishes, the Lamb dish has had a make over, comprising of a lamb shoulder shepherds pie, lamb cutlet and winter vegetables, a pumpkin ale cake and toffee apple sorbet has made an appearance for Halloween(Pauls last crazy idea) and one of our winter warmers is back, Sticky ginger pudding with a ginger caramel sauce, which I thought I’d share with you



             175g (6oz) plain flour
             1tsp ground ginger
             1/2tsp baking powder
             1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
             2 large eggs, beaten
             75g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
             100g (4oz) dark brown sugar
             1tbsp black treacle
             240g (9oz) stem ginger, drained but syrup reserved, chopped finely in a food processor and half reserved for the sauce

For the sauce:
             100g (4oz) soft brown sugar
             75g (3oz) unsalted butter
             3tbsp reserved ginger syrup from the jar
             4tbsp Ginger wine (Stones or Crabbies)
             200ml (1/3pt) double cream

  Preheat oven to 180 C, 160 C fan, 350 F, gas 4.
1.Sift the flour, ginger, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.
 2.Add the eggs, butter, sugar, treacle and half the stem ginger, and mix well with an electric hand whisk until thoroughly mixed. Divide the mixture between 6 prepared moulds, we cook ours in a tray and divide in to squares when cooled.
3.Place on to a baking tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until well-risen, golden brown and firm to the touch.( These puddings can be frozen )
4.Meanwhile, to make the sauce, simply place the remaining stem ginger and all the other sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Place over a medium heat; bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until smooth.
5.When the puddings are cooked, remove from the oven. Allow to cool for five minutes before turning out, they seem to come out easier then.
 6 Either serve sauce over the puddings or in a jug, add your favorite, custard, ice cream or a large dollop of clotted cream or all????!!


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

An inspector calls and great fun in a barn .

Another month flown by, which we started with a meandering trip out to Clavelshay Barn Restaurant for a Somerset Chefs Club dinner. The venue is on the out skirts of Taunton and we went down roads that we didn’t know existed, maybe we shouldn’t have driven down some!! But what stunning scenery and abundant wild life we passed on our way, The Barn was equally impressive, an awful lot of work, care and love have gone into this fine old building. We spent the evening with a great mix of people, a few of the guys from The Beach Hotel were there, and its amazing to watch and listen to their take on the wonderful food presented to us during the evening, some overly enthusiastic and some quite shy, but all with a genuine love of the trade, so we will still be able to eat out in years to come. Olivier and his team supplied a mouth watering menu of , crab, belly pork, gurnard, lamb and a truly yummy strawberry and lemon dessert, I’m not elaborating to much on the dishes because hopefully you will travel out to taste these treats for yourselves, well worth the drive.

That was our treat for the month over; we then steeled ourselves for the crazily busy month ahead and we were not wrong, the room and table booking were crazy, with no let up. We’ve met some amazing and lovely people and hope that we served them well and that they enjoyed there time at The Swan.

One gentleman that did enjoy his time with us was the AA inspector, he did a dine and stay with us, so after breakfast he revealed his identity to Paul, they then proceeded to discuss the findings of his inspection, busily unaware of what was going on, I continued prepping in the kitchen, whilst in the bar a little later getting some ale for my rarebit Paul called me over to introduce me and tell me the brilliant news that we had gained another rosette and the room rating had gone from 4 stars to 4 star gold, Paul didn’t come down to earth for about a week, whereas it look me about a week for it all to sink in, so well done Team Swan, 2 AA rosettes and 4 star gold rating for rooms, a brilliant accolade for Bampton and Mid Devon.

Strange that on the night the inspector ate we also had a previous winner of Masterchef dining as well, good spotting from our eagle eyed staff, he was amazed that he had been recognised as it was a few years back, thank goodness he enjoyed his food too.

Only a few days later we were approached to appear on 4 In A Bed, this was not the first time we had been asked, but once again we declined, neither Paul or myself are overly fussed about having our photos taken, so viewing ourselves on TV sounds like our worst nightmare, the thought of being so closely scrutinized is really not something we feel we have to put ourselves through, normal days can be quite challenging enough.

With Steve the manager away for the quiz evening, which normally is his forte, I had to step up to the mark. To say looking at a room full of expectant people is scary, probably an understatement the evening went well. This month was in support of the Riverside Hall a building run by and for the people of Bampton.

One evening whilst waiting on tables I got talking to 2 lovely couples, one of the ladies had used my Panna Cotta recipe, so later on whilst clearing the desert plates I was asked about the Pistachio  and Olive Oil cake, when I told them I had also made that, hubby piped up that he wanted to marry me, my reply was I'm afraid I'm already taken but I will put the recipe in my next column…… so here it is.

NEWS JUST IN we have just heard that we have made the finals of the Devon Life Gastro pub of the year 2015 we are so excited, thanks to everyone that voted for us, award ceremony in November

Pistachio and olive oil cake
3         large eggs
200g-castor sugar
100g butter, melted and cooled
125ml olive oil
1/2         lemon juiced and zest
1/2         orange juiced and zest
50g         fine polenta
50g         plain flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
200g ground pistachio nuts

1.  Preheat the oven to 150°C.
2.  Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
3.Put the eggs and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on a high speed for a few minutes, until light and frothy. 4.In another bowl, mix the melted butter, olive oil, and orange and lemon juices together.
5.Fold this into the egg mixture.
6.Sift the polenta; flour and baking powder together then fold in the ground pistachios.
7.Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture, taking care not to overwork the cake batter.
8.Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35–40 minutes until a cake skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

We served a chocolate sorbet with this cake, warm or cold it will take almost anything, cream, fruit or even a jam

Lastly can we trouble you to vote for us in The Trencherman's Awards 2016. this is a truly high award to receive as it represents the best in The South West. so we thank you for ttaking the time to vote for us  

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Busy Month, chefs, cider and TV

Is Bampton really mid Devon? With Somerset only a few miles up the road, it does feel like we are really on the edge, so in saying that it meant that we got an invite (sneaky) to attend Somerset Chefs Club first ever dinner at The Beach Hotel Minehead. The hotel has been taken over by the YMCA and is run as a training school in all forms of the hospitality industry, well not everyone is cut out for schools or college. The young people are taught and supervised at all time by a group of fully qualified professionals, some attend college on day release or are assessed on the job, so they can gain suitable levels at NVQ to move forward with there chosen career, one of the young chefs was leaving the following week to start a new job in Scotland at a Michelin starred hotel. What a great bunch of people they were, they were so enthusiastic and proud of their achievements, from the minute we entered to the moment we left we were given 5star treatment, we could have been at the Ritz. The staff showcased their food and front of house skills and a wonderful night was had by all. So if you are wandering along Minehead seafront and fancy something to eat, bare The Beach Hotel in mind a great cause and well worth a visit.

June is always a busy month for us, with Fathers day, the start of wedding season and the Iron Man competition at Wimbleball Lake increasing the number of people wishing to eat, added to this we lucky to be chosen to cook for The Cannonball Chefs, this caused much excitement on Facebook and Twitter. The country is split into 4 areas and a team of 4 has 48 hours to eat at 24 restaurants ending at the 25th one in Birmingham where all the teams meet up. It might all sound very glamorous but the guys that visited us looked absolutely broken by it all, there’s a heck of a lot of miles traveling around the southwest area to visit all of these foodie places, I know they had a great time and ate some amazing dishes, but I’m sure they slept for a couple of days when it was all over.

We branched out last week and had a pop up bar at Tiverton's Electric Nights food festival, selling some amazing local cider, we had a great night, met some wonderful people and of course sampled some awesome and filling food, all with bands playing in the background. So if I were you, I would look out for the next Electric Night food festival and go along, take the kids and the dogs all are welcome. I'm sure you'll have a real fun night.

Back to Plymouth for a Devon chefs club dinner, the Greedy Goose was once again the venue, this time Ben was assisted by Mike Palmer (who runs the chefs club) head chef at The Two Bridges Hotel in Princetown, who teamed up with the guys from Tigermilk a cocktail bar, so not only did we have great food we had matching cocktails. (At least I've eaten two good meals this month)

The end of the month saw features in Devon life magazine, catering the crew from Come Dine With Me (no they didn’t tell me any gossip) and a day with David Griffin award-winning food photographer taking pictures of our food, so all in all a hectic but fun end to the month.

Soft fruit is obviously bountiful this year and suddenly we find ourselves inundated with gifts from customers. Unfortunately these fruits don't last too long and there are only so many you can freeze. We have made some great purees for decoration and we will be making jams and chutneys but I have found a great looking cake recipe so you can use up any of your excess fruit. Enjoy

Summer Fruit Drizzle Cake

         2 large eggs
         2 tsp vanilla extract
         175g fruits, stoned and diced weight
         140g granulated sugar
         1-2 tbsp citrus juice - lemon, lime or orange
         175g very soft butter, plus extra for greasing
         175g golden caster sugar
                  250g self-raising flour

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease a 900g/2lb loaf tin and line the base and ends with a long strip of baking parchment. Put the butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract into a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer for 5 mins until pale and creamy – the mixture will be very thick.
Spread one-third of the cake mix into the tin, then scatter over 50g of the fruit. Carefully dot and spread another third of the cake mix on top, and scatter with another 50g fruit. Finally dot the rest of the cake mix over and gently spread with the back of a spoon. Bake for 1 hr, until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Poke the cake all over with a skewer. Put remaining 75g fruit into a bowl with the granulated sugar. Stir in 1 tbsp of the citrus juice first with a fork, mashing a little of the fruit as you go. If it’s a bit dry, add a splash more juice and spoon over the cake. Leave in the tin until the cake is cool and the topping is set and crisp.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Mixing with the Stars

With another bank holiday and lovely weather bringing in the customers, Paul hardly had time to draw breath before his jaunt over to Kentisbury Grange. An evening presented by the Trencherman’s guide, showcasing Devon's finest produce and chefs. It was an amazing opportunity for Paul cooking with the stars of the catering world Michael Caines MBE with 2 Michelin stars, Mark Dodson of The Masons Arms 1 star for over 10 years and chef Thomas Hines; Michaels head chef @The Coach House by Michael Caines auspicious company indeed. He had amazing evening and said how welcoming, obviously professional and calm everyone was, the food apparently was stunning as was Kentisbury Grange itself. Can't wait to try for myself.

Bampton hosted its first ever Spring Fest (Which replaces the August bank holiday Bampton open day)at the end of May. The day luckily saw glorious weather which obviously helped, there were a variety of stalls selling some great gifts and home-made items, there were horse and hounds, vintage cars, dog shows for all and of course Bampton's famous parachuting teddy bears The list actually was quite endless. Whether it was the date change or because the weather was kind to Bampton it most certainly was a success and if this is built upon over the years Bampton Spring Fest will certainly become a date in everyone's diary, so to those who worked so tirelessly organizing the event they should be very proud of their achievements.

Something that is already proving to be a great success is the Tiverton Electric Nights Street Food festival, so with luck The Swan will have its own pop-up bar there next time on 4th July, so look out for us.

Another month and another Devon Chefs Club dinner, this took place at The Treby Arms near Plymouth (Sparkwell) our hosts were Anton and Clare Piotrowski, Masterchef winner and also a holder of a Michelin star. He certainly pulled out all stops and definitely had all of the chefs talking, taking pictures and having a truly great night. The pub itself was immaculate, beautifully decorated, with a sense of fun and the food stunning; it’s most definitely worthy of all that he has achieved. So for that special occasion it's really somewhere to put on your hit list and I believe there is accommodation not too far away.

Monday will see us heading off to Minehead, for the very first Exmoor and Somerset chefs club dinner at the Beach Hotel which looks really interesting, we are staying over so I'll be able to give you a B&B report as well as the food next time.

With summer hopefully on the way and with a few days that the barbecue might have been fired up it's well worth thinking about making your own burgers, they are simple, reasonably inexpensive and a lot tastier than the frozen variety (obviously you don’t just have to barbeque) .We make our own here at The Swan and they are a sure fire winner. I'll give you a basic recipe and then you can be creative, just make sure you cook them through thoroughly.
We add chilli and mustard too ours and sometimes we use lamb mince and coriander.. You can use any minced meat and add your own flavorings, it's great fun and it will give your barbecue the edge, either mould in a large screw top lid (like a coffee jar) or mould by hand, good luck and enjoy the sunshine


      1 small onion
      500g good-quality beef mince
      1 egg
Just hand mix all ingredients together.
This should make 4 good-sized burgers

Add garlic, parsley, mint, chives or even curry spices, what about a chicken curry burger? There are no limits to your imagination its really down to your taste buds.

Top with any sort of cheese, mozzarella, cheddar or even a tasty blue. Once pressed, if don’t use them all, wrap in cling film and freeze until the next time, you can make a whole range.

Use all or any of the following to serve: sliced tomato, beetroot, horseradish sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, handful iceberg lettuce, rocket, watercress.

Sunday, 26 April 2015


Two years after walking away from the Quarryman’s things couldn’t be looking rosier for us, we’ve had a stream of really positive trip advisor reviews (no we don’t please all the people all the time, but we try) a great write up in Devon Life magazine, Paul was absolutely bowled over with it and a great review on, standard issue magazine,  “a smart and witty online magazine for women by women” but with an appeal to men, they do like to know what we’re up to and talking about.

The first bank holiday of the year saw glorious weather and a major influx of visitors to the area, hampers were raffled, eggs for the children, extra football games played, a few pink bodies and great to meet some real characters, all in all Easter was amazing and things haven’t let up since.

Since my last ramblings we have been lucky enough to take on a new chef to enable me to go “ front of house “ a bit more, to help train and encourage the young staff we now have. So a massive welcome to Tom, we do hope you enjoy your time with us, and by the looks of things he has a little fan club that have all come to see how he’s doing, new converts for The Swan maybe?

I must say that I have had a week of feeling extremely miffed, some of the afore mentioned reviews and comments from customers whilst being front of house have driven me crazy. (feeling slightly invisible) Occasionally I forget that the catering industry is a male dominated world (some years ago applying for a chefs job, I was offered a waitress position, because there were only men in the kitchen!!! What did they think I was going to do to them?)  But the recent fawning over Paul (yes he is pretty amazing, but don’t tell him I said so) and everything that he does that is so amazing, they forget that its most definitely a team effort, no one person could possibly do all the prep work and cooking in the kitchen, as well as all the other things related to running a business, bills to pay, cleaning, potting the plants, decorating, rotas, ordering, the list is endless, Jamie and Gordon aren’t cooking in all of their 100s of restaurants every night.   Rant over.

Next week sees us hosting our first ever ‘Devon Chefs Club” dinner, the menu has been changed more than a few times and Paul and I are very excited about it, through the power of Twitter and Facebook the numbers are growing and there is much interest, I’ll report back next month. Along side this Paul has been asked to cook with Michael Caines and Mark Dodson from The Masons Arms for a Trencherman’s Dinner at Kentisbury Grange next month, exciting times indeed.

We have now entered an exciting time for food, lovely English fruit is appearing, great veg is more readily available and as the waters calm fish is becoming much more available and more reasonably priced.

An old classic is asparagus (which is so new season and trendy) with hollandaise sauce, fish also take this sauce very well and with the addition of tarragon creates a béarnaise sauce for a great covering for a juicy rump or ribeye.

Donnas’ Quick and Easy Hollandaise Sauce(the cheats way)

2 Egg yolks
8oz Butter
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp vinegar
Salt and pepper

1   .  Place egg yolks, mustard, vinegar and seasoning in to a bar blender or food processor
2   .  Melt butter in microwave or in a pan, just melted, be careful not to burn
3   .  Set mixer on highest setting and gently and slowly add the butter
4   .  You should end up with a beautiful creamy sauce

Should the sauce split or be to thick, take half out of the blender, add a couple of spoonfuls of boiling water whilst mixing on full setting, then add the rest of the mix.

This recipe has served me well over the years and is a long way away from the time consuming and arm breaking way we learned at college, add what you like to this or grill on top of a dish, enjoy

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Spring has sprung

Whether spring has sprung or not, its wonderful to see all the new buds popping up, a wonderful array of daffodils lining the roadsides and the gently waft of wild garlic in the air. The valley road between Tiverton and Bampton is stunning at this time of the year, with glimpses of the river twinkling below and the birds busily flying around. Some people might now take this opportunity   to start a bit of spring-cleaning, especially with the sun shining; we have been at it since January, with two of our bedrooms being totally refurbished, (one to go, but I’m working on a theme) 90% of the pub inside re-painted and a new look for the toilets, well us ladies like a nice looking loo!  It’s not the easiest of challenges when you’re open 6 1/2 days a week; maybe that’s why it feels like it’s taken forever. But it’s nice to have a change and freshen things up, not only in the decoration department, but the kitchen too. As always the menu is ever evolving, with new dishes and tweaks happening all of the time.
Talking of change, it appears that many of our fellow publicans have changed just recently, with new people at both The Exeter Inn and The Anchor and rumors of the re opening of The White Horse and new management at The Red Lion, it seems an exciting time for the pub goer.  Good luck and best wishes to you all.

Paul and I did attend The Devon Chefs Club dinner earlier in the month and I would say that if you ever find yourself in Plymouth near the Barbican and fancy a treat, you couldn’t go wrong in trying out The Greedy Goose, as the group of 16 or so of us would testify. Not having been to one of these events before, we were definitely the new guys, but we were soon made to feel very welcome and as the courses arrived the common interest of food soon had everyone talking, there was a mixture of chefs, suppliers, media guys and a chef lecturer from the local college. Our food was a selection of items from their menu, I definitely tried things I never would have ordered, and it certainly opens up your mind. Ben and Francesca not only have a stunning food offering they can also boast of a beautiful building steeped in history. They took over towards the end of last year and are already a big hit. We will be hosting one in the near future, showcasing our menu favorites and local suppliers, lets hope our peers think favorably of our food offerings and surroundings.

With a wonderful Mothers Day behind us and Easter fast approaching, one of our new tasty dishes uses a really lovely vegetable pickle, at present it is used with our starter mackerel dish, but would go well with almost any pan fried fish or possibly one in a light batter, potted meats or just on top of a mixed salad to give it an extra wow. It’s very light and slightly sweet with a bit of a zing.

(Don’t let the title put you off)

2 carrots, peeled
2 red onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 red chilli
2 celery sticks (optional, I personally don’t)

(pickle mix)
2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds (crush down in pan with a spoon or the end of a rolling pin, just to open the flavour)
100ml white wine
100ml white vinegar
100ml water
100g castor sugar
pinch salt and pepper

1.          Prepare the vegetables, de-seed peppers  and finely slice all, as fine as you can, a good trick is to use a peeler to get very thin strips on the carrot and then slice, slice the peppers from the inside it’s easier than cutting through the skin side
2.          Put all pickle mix ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute
3.          Pour over vegetables, stir in gently, leave to cool
4.          Place into clean jars or airtight containers. Will keep for a good 2 to 3 months in a cool place.

This is so simple but really tasty and goes with so many things, I’m sure that when you get a taste of it you will be eating it with a lot more things than I’ve suggested.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Short Break

Whilst grabbing a few days break, mid January in the far reaches of Cornwall, I started to wonder does just a county border make a difference to what people like or want.
Ok we were by the sea and a well know tourist destination, but there must still be people who live there all year round, what do the locals do?

We arrived late Sunday evening, to find the heating had packed up and the wifi down. Paul was on the case first thing Monday morning and the landlord had the plumber around in no time, BT however was installing faster broadband in the area, so no service or signal for us, apart from the odd street corner. (Mark thanks for fixing what you could even though none of it was your fault)
Whilst wandering around the town on Monday morning we were somewhat surprised to see some of our usual haunts shut for a month, a week, only open at weekends or not there at all!!
Are they so busy in the summer months that they can afford a major holiday or can they not afford to stay?

The menus throughout the town are very much on the same theme, many items repeated time and time again, very fish orientated, as you would expect, with the odd steak and pasty thrown in for good measure, as always some places cared about their set up, ingredients and service, others really didn’t bother, we sampled a few of each.

So the Cornish like us promote there own beers, lagers and wines and have their favourite dairies and butchers and I’m sure like for like for every Devonshire pub there is a equal in Cornwall. Would The Swan do Ok, yeah I think it would, it might be a much-needed change.

Wednesday we had our treat of the week, a night out at Bens Cornish Kitchen, his first nights opening after a few days away for a bit of rest and inspiration, we were not disappointed although Ben was a little unsure, as all chefs are and I’m sure there will be some tweaking to the dishes over the days and weeks to come, until he’s totally satisfied. But Ben your customers were happy and that’s what we’re all aiming for.

Our waitress that evening was telling us she was off travelling to Costa Rica for two months, which coincides with two of our lads departing to Thailand and surrounding areas for three months.
 Maybe a border makes little difference but nearly 6000 miles will, a snippet I caught on the radio whilst driving around had a group of Thai girls tasting crisp flavours for the first time, the sounds were not good, they were none too impressed, apparently honey and butter, onion, snow pea and shrimp are there favourites, so guys pasties, cornflakes and BLT might be a thing of the past.
So back into full service on Friday night and nearly fully booked, with Saturday breakfast, lunch, footballers, evening service and a surprise 40th to look forward, the sound of the seagulls seem suddenly a while ago.

3 of the 40th birthday party are vegetarians and this is one of my favourite tasty dishes that is good for both individual portions and a larger tray bake.


2 garlic cloves
jar or box passata
2 pinches caster sugar
onions or 6 shallots
2/3 chicory
100ml white wine
knob of butter
150g mascarpone
8/10 pasta sheets
25g parmesan
25g toasted hazelnuts- roughly chopped

1.Heat oven to 180 0c gas 4
2. Gently fry crushed garlic cloves and diced onions in olive/sunflower oil
3.Add passata, sugar and basil (rinse out passata jar with a little water, add)
4.Simmer for 15/20 mins- reduce by half
5.Fry thickly sliced chicory and rosemary in the butter until soft, mix in the mascarpone, season to taste and set to one side
6.Bring a pan of salted oiled water to the boil, cook pasta sheets for 2 mins, then rinse under cold water and cut in half length ways.
7. Put the tomato sauce into an ovenproof dish, roll up the strips of pasta and place on top
8. Spoon the chicory and mascarpone mix over the top, grate Parmesan and add hazelnuts.
9. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden and bubbling

This is a great dish that you can really add what you like to, or omit the things you don’t. Mushrooms. Peppers, chillies, bacon, ham, change the cheese to cheddar or a crumbly white, what ever takes your fancy or whatever is in the fridge. Keeps well for a day or two in the fridge and freezes well.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

And that was 2014

With a month to go before our Christmas parties were due to start we placed our order for crackers, they may not be the most exciting but they do help dress the table and the customers seem to have fun whilst pulling them and relaying the terrible jokes and ditties, so you can imagine our frustration when a week before the first of our parties on the 3rd were due, we were informed the crackers would be with us on the 5th!!! Not a good start, so many phone calls later we were promised enough to see us through (even if the manager had to go to the local supermarket and buy them himself) and after all that the said crackers arrived the day before they were needed.

With that said they were willing to go the extra mile and make sure we had what we needed and in that respect we are extremely lucky with all of our suppliers, we’ve had deliveries at all times of the day from 6am until 10pm with some of these guys still 2 hours from home. I myself don’t seem to have left the pub for weeks, so I take my hat of to all of these delivery men and woman, ah and of course our lovely postman for getting all of our orders and Christmas shopping to us at this maddest time of year, thank you all.

This month most definitely has gone in a flash, from putting the decorations up on the 1st and 3 parties arriving on the 3rd we haven’t drawn breath, we’ve had a mix of small parties of 4 and parties of 45 taking up the downstairs of the pub, along with a steady stream of B&B guests its not surprising that all the days seem to have merged into one.

It does feel a little like nothing has really happened this month, but I suppose what I mean that nothing out of the ordinary has happened as compared with the last few months.

We have had some interest in taking on an apprentice, which is something we will be looking into in the New Year, now is not the time it might put them off for good.

With the New Year fast approaching it’s a time for new starts and changes, plans for some decorating and furnishings are being discussed. New items will start appearing on the menu as we subtly change from the Christmas season, as well as creating a joint venture with a couple of the south west best places for a unique dining experience. this will be a one night event, its early stages but we are all really excited about the idea. Its great to see others approach to things as in this trade you never stop learning or picking up ideas, I’ll definitely keep you informed as to how the planning is going.

So for now all that is left to say, is that I hope you have enjoyed some of the tales from the pub and all at The Swan hope that you had a fantastic Christmas and wish you well for the New Year.

After all the excess of Christmas and the New Year, I thought I’d give you a recipe for my favourite soup, something that’s warming and filling, especially with a hunk of bread with lots of butter

Split yellow pea and ham soup

1 ham hock
1 carrot
½ onion
2 cloves of garlic (optional)
1 stick celery                                             }Leave
parsley                                                         } whole so
a few strips of leek the outer skin is fine}you can                                                                                      take them out    

250g split yellow peas
1.5 litre ham stock
1 carrot
½ onion

1.   Place all ham hock ingredients in a pan, cover with water and simmer slowly for 2 hours, until the meat is falling of the bone
2.   Strain ham stock and set aside the hock
3.   Place all soup ingredients in a pot, cook for about an hour over a medium heat, until the peas burst and the stock begins to thicken
4.   Once cooked remove the vegetables and blend, add a knob of butter and season to taste
5.   Add chopped ham hock meat
6.   ENJOY

An easier option and to use some of the left over Christmas ham, is follow step 3 using chicken stock, if using cubes be careful it doesn’t become to salty, add your chopped ham and maybe even a dash of cream. 

I know it sounds Mad but I'm sitting down thinking about Valentines Day menu. 
Thats the life of a publican.