Tag Archives: Dine

All Hallow’s Eve

The origins of the Hallowe’en are well established, but not always well known. Our Bar Manager Iain Hewitt sheds some light on this ever popular occasion, and offers some tasty beverages to go!

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Based on a Pict/Scots Celtic tradition and adopted by the Catholic Church and renamed All Hallow’s Eve in an attempt to ease the transition of the barbarian hordes to the new Christian sect; it has become one of the most popular holidays, especially in America, where the adopted tradition of trick and treating has become one of the most popular excitements for children and adults alike. This is slowly making its way over here, as kids look to supplement their sweet intake without having to wait the extra few days to go door to door with a stuffed Guido Fawkes.
Of course, more interesting to people of my mind-set are the parties that go on into the early hours, where the drink flows steady and the guests slowly slip into gentle inebriation. In that vein, of course there are a few interesting things you can do with the drinks to help the atmosphere of the party. Simple things like the addition of Blue Curaçao (a slightly tart orange liqueur) to orange or pineapple juice will turn things a nice sickly green; drop in some grenadine or a red liqueur such as Cherry Brandy or Campari and suddenly things start to look rather ghoulish (much like our special Hallowe’en Cocktail this year – the delightfully named Ectoplasm!). Of course you can mix those flavours up with the addition of whatever takes your fancy – a whisky adds a great smoky finish, while Fruity liqueurs can subtly amend the flavour in other ways – experimentation is the key. In the same way, you can mix things up long or short; in a classic martini glass, dropping things through can look particularly effective.
For alternatives, thick red liqueurs mixed with apple juice or even lemonade can look fantastic. Mixing Campari into a classic Collins is easy and interesting, but do look out for that sharp edge!
As I always say – experiment, find your own mixes, and what works for you works for you, but be wary of drinking too many before the kids have gone to bed!

Wedding Tips at Donnington Valley

When planning for your wedding day, catering will be one of the biggest decisions you will make. The food is one of the main things your guests will remember from the day, what they had, was there enough, was there too little and how did the food reflect you as a couple? Here are our best tips.

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When it comes to deciding on catering for your big day there are a number of choices: a traditional three course wedding breakfast; a relaxed summer barbecue or even a Champagne afternoon tea. Try and be different – and think about the best bits from previous weddings you would have attended. Make it more about you and your partner.

Upon arrival following your ceremony, guests might be a little peckish; the perfect little appetiser would be individually handmade canapés. Time of year is key as to what this might entail – hot, cold, heavy or fresh. You might want the freedom to choose, some venues are more flexible here than others.

Drinks are also a very important part of the day and not everyone wants to drink, though some do! A range of beverages for your reception depending on the time of year including a Summer Pimms or hot winter cider toddy will go down well and don’t have to break the bank.

The main meal, often called the wedding breakfast, can come in a variety of guises – and our Head Chef, Kelvin Johnson, is happy to design a menu for our guests’ wedding day. Kelvin’s menus are influenced by the seasons, using the freshest ingredients from our local suppliers. Importantly for many, wines to compliment your menu sounds like a minefield but needn’t – our award winning wine sommelier, Chris Neeves would assist on selecting exactly what went with your chosen dish. Whatever you choose though, again consider what you and your partner like.

It is also nice to cater for others for example the vegetarians and children who might need something different to the rest. At Donnington we create ‘Little Meals’ – mini fish & chip cones or mini burgers and chips . If you have a large number of evening guests attending or have a family with a large appetite, a finger buffet is perfect, and we are able to customise to suit any dietary requirements. If you fancy something simple; a bacon, egg or sausage roll will go down a treat too and once the party starts can often be the saving grace!

And throughout the evening, something fun will keep everyone entertained and energy levels high! How about going for your favourite retro sweets, a popcorn machine or even candy floss! A great Summer treat is a slush machine which you can make alcoholic, adults only or even an ice cream stand- everyone loves ice cream!

It can be overwhelming trying to accommodate all of your family and friends’ needs. But most importantly remember the day is your day, and if you choose to have it at Donnington, we are here to make your day as special and memorable for you as possible.

Spring Foods

Spring is one of my favourite times of the year with lots of interesting foods coming into season.

Lamb has to be one of my favourite meats! I source our lamb from Thatcham Butchers, who always provide high quality fresh meats that are local. There are so many different types of cuts you can buy from leg, breast, neck, shoulder, saddle, rump and loin. A great dish that I particularly like is rump of lamb braised shoulder faggot, rosemary royal potatoes, spinach, roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine and mint jus.

Rocket is very versatile. It can be used to make great pesto, and it’s great in Italian dishes, salads or used simply for decoration on a plate.  It has a strong peppery flavour, a great texture and can be grown easily. We grow our own here at Donnington so why not try to plant some in your garden or allotment.

Garlic a fantastic ingredient and I use it in almost everything. Again like the rocket it is pretty easy to grow. We are lucky to be able to source garlic all year round as it is dried, but I prefer fresh.  Add garlic to your mashed potato and serve with braised pork belly, broccoli and crackling dust; this makes a fantastic evening meal.

It’s not long until fresh asparagus is in season (around 3 weeks) and we source this from our local Cobbs Farm in Hungerford.

Have a go and cook with some of these ingredients or simply join us for lunch or dinner from £23 for two courses and enjoy some delicious dishes freshly prepared with local ingredients – click here to view our sample menus.

Kelvin Johnson
Head Chef
Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

Ingredients in Season

As we are moving away from winter and towards spring there are a variety of delicious ingredients that are currently in season. Here are a few of my dish suggestions.

Ingredients in season:
Sardines
Spring Onions
Clams
Cockles
Mussels
Oysters
Seabass Venison

  • For the sardines try to buy them fresh, then grill them and place on top of toast with a tomato compote – a delicious starter or light lunch, quick and easy to prepare!
  • Try spring onions in mashed potato. Prepare your mash and when adding in your butter add a handful of chopped spring onions along with seasoning. – A great change from plain mash!
  • Combine clams and cockles to make a chowder serve this with a lightly pan fried fillet of brill – easy to make, a great for a dinner party dish.
  • You can’t go wrong with the classic French dish Moules mariniere. This dish has a wonderful creamy and garlicky flavour you can’t help but mop up the sauce with baguette bread.
  • Oysters I prefer to not complicate their delicious delicate flavour. Serve on ice and with some lemon wedges, Tabasco sauce and pickled red onion.
  • For seabass simply pan fry with a bit of butter, serve with wilted spinach and horseradish mash.
  • One of my favourite dishes is pan fried venison loin served with sticky red cabbage, potato rosti and chocolate jus – amazing!

Have a go at home and enjoy the current seasonal produce. Or put your feet up and visit our Winepress restaurant at Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa and enjoy a dish!

Kelvin Johnson
Head Chef
Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

Gluten, Dairy and Sugar free!

I create gluten, dairy and sugar free desserts on a weekly basis for our menus here at Donnington Valley. This is a lovely light dessert that can easly be made at home. Hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

Soya Milk 200 ml
Cardamom 6 pcs
Coconut milk 300 ml
Egg yolk  7 pcs
Sweetener  11 tblsp
Gelatine 3 ½
Chopped mango 150 grams
Chopped ripe banana – 1/2 pcs
Mint leaf  – garnish

Method:

1. Warm the soya milk, roasted cardamom and coconut milk together

2. Then add the egg yolk and 10tblsp of the sweetener into the warm milk

3. Keep cooking at a low temperature until it coats the spoon.

4. Dissolve the gelatine in the warm egg yolk, coconut mixture and strain the mixture.

5. Immediately place the warm pannacotta mixture under an ice bath. Continuously mix the mixture until it starts to set.

6. Pour the pannacotta mixture in your favourite mould. Store it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

7. Mix the chopped bananas and mangoes with the rest of the sweetener, rest for 20 minutes.

8. Asemble the pannacotta on a plate and add the banana & mango salsa, use mint to garnish.

Have a go at this dessert and let me know your thoughts.

See you soon at Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa!

Abraham
Head Pastry Chef
Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

Braised Pork Belly

ere is my recipe for braised pork belly, spiced red cabbage, caramelised apple, whole grain mustard mash and jus. This is a delicious dish perfect for a dinner party! Why not try it at home.

For 4 portions:

Ingredients for the Pork:

200ml Orange juice
1 tsp English mustard
2 cloves
3 tsp honey
1tsp orange marmalade
1 bunch bay leaves
1 glove garlic
A pinch of ginger
2 pinches of whole black pepper
1tbsp chopped purple sage
½  of a star anise
1 medium carrot
1 large onion
50 grams celery
50 grams leeks
400ml white wine
Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 130c. Put the pork belly in a large oven tray adding all the above ingredients, top with the orange juice and white wine. Braise in the oven between 6 to 8 hours. Once cooked put the meat on a clean tray and press it tight to extract any extra juices. Ideally try to store the meat in the fridge overnight. The next day slice the pork into thick slices about 200g each, reheat the oven to 180c and place the pork in for 25 minutes.

Ingredients for spiced red cabbage:

400grams red cabbage – shredded
50ml red currant jelly
½ tsp mixed spice
1tbsp sugar
1tbsp red wine vinegar
50ml red wine

Method:

Place a pan on a low heat, add the shredded red cabbage & add all the given ingredients together cook slowly for 45 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Ingredients for caramelised apple:

2 Peeled, cut & cored red apples
2tbsp castor sugar
1tbsp butter

Method:

Place a pan on the stove. Add the sugar & keep stirring until it caramelises. Then add the butter and sliced apple, cook for 4mins until the apple is coated in the caramel.

Ingredients for whole grain mustard mash:

800grams Regular potatoes – peeled and cut
2 tbsp of whole grain mustard
Butter
Salt & pepper

Method:

Place a pan on the heat and fill with water. Once the water is boiling add the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes become soft, drain and then mash them adding salt, pepper and a bit of butter. Mix the whole grain mustard with mash potatoes.

Ingredients for the Jus:

250 grams Veal bones
150 grams Chicken bones
300 grams Pork trotter
1 Onion
2 Carrots
50 grams leeks
30 grams celery
1 tbsp sugar
100 ml red wine
1 litre Water
Salt & pepper

Method:

Roast the bones and place it in to a slow cooker with onion, leeks, carrots, celery & water. Cook it slowly on a low heat for 4 hours. Then strain the stock into a separate pan. Add red wine, then reduce the stock to half. Season it with salt & pepper.

To assemble:

Reheat all the cooked products. Assemble just like in the picture & enjoy!

Try this recipe at home or come along to Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa and enjoy a meal in the WinePress restaurant.

Kelvin Johnson
Head Chef
Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

Recipe: A Raspberry Summer Dessert

Try making this delicious dessert at home and enjoy al-fresco on a wonderful summer’s evening or pop down to Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa and our experienced dessert chefs will whip one up for you.

Local farm raspberries, white chocolate milles feuille, black pepper tuile and raspberry reduction

Ingredients

Crispy vanilla sponge:

2 whole eggs
42g caster sugar
½ vanilla pod
45g plain flour

White chocolate filling (mousse):

165ml double cream
20g caster sugar
80g white chocolate

Black pepper tuile (a thin, crisp biscuit):

17g soft butter
17g icing sugar
1 egg white
18g plain flour
A very small tbsp crushed black pepper

Raspberry reduction:

84g fresh raspberries
46g caster sugar
34 ml water
1 tsp glucose

Method (serves 4):

CRISPY VANILLA SPONGE:

1. Heat the oven to 170c
2. Whip the whole eggs with caster sugar to soft peaks
3. Split the vanilla pod with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds
4. Add the vanilla seeds to the egg and sugar mixture and gently fold in the plain flour
5. Put baking paper on a baking tray and spread the mixture evenly on it
6. Bake it at 170c for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

WHITE CHOCOLATE FILLING ( MOUSSE):

1. Whip the double cream with caster sugar
2. Melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie (hot-water bath)
3. Fold the cream into the white chocolate quickly and gently to ensure that the maximum amount of air is retained in the mixture.

BLACK PEPPER TUILE:

1. Beat the soft butter with icing sugar until smooth
2. Add the egg white and mix in well
3. Sieve the flour and fold into the mixture with the black pepper until combined.
4. Bake at 200°Cuntil golden brown, about 6-8minutes. (Do not under bake)
5.  Upon removal from oven, use a metal spatula to lift the cookies of the tray, and place on a rolling pin to obtain the tuile shape or place upside down in a tuile sheet.

Raspberry reduction:

1. Boil the fresh raspberries with water, caster sugar and glucose to 110c in a pan
Cool it down pass through a seive.

Assemble the dish by placing a layer of the white chocolate mousse between rectangles of the sponge. Top with a row of fresh raspberries and the tuile biscuit. Dot some of the raspberry reduction on the plate and serve.

Enjoy!
Abraham, Head Pastry Chef

Visit our website for Alfresco dining at Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

A Summer Coffee Cocktail

Coffee plays a crucial role in today’s modern society. In 2004, coffee was the top agricultural export in twelve countries. The coffee we use here at Donnington is Lavazza, an Italian roasted bean. Although coffee was not invented in Italy, coffee is very much part of the Italian culture.

Although coffee is traditionally served as a hot drink, it’s also a great ingredient for a perfect summer cocktail. Here at Donnington Valley we have our own range of cocktails named after Greek gods in keeping with name of our main bar, Bacchus bar.  Our coffee of the month is coffee cocktail Hades, a cool coffee digestive.

Hades is known as King of the Underworld, and the hidden wealth of the Earth and brother to Zeus.

How to make Hades.
50ml – Baileys
25ml – milk
25ml – cream
1 shot – Lavazza espresso shot
25ml – Jameson’s Whisky

Shake all ingredients together and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with chocolate powder and a coffee bean.

Why not stop by the bar at Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa and try this or one of our other coctails? www.donningtonvalley.co.uk

Quick question for you coffee lovers what is the rarest and most expensive cups of coffee in the world?

A) Kopi Luwak

Rob Smith
Bar Manager