• Simon Mckenzie


Although you hear me talking a lot about my pop-up themed dining events here and there, I will also pack up all my plates, equipment and food and arrive at your house and bring a Michelin standard restaurant experience to your own home.

I was lucky enough to take over this stunning

kitchen last night to cater for a dinner party for 12 guests.

As usual we arrived a couple of hours early and unpacked and setup for the dinner party.

Quick cup of tea with the hosts and a chat about how they saw the evening playing out and exactly what (and how much) they required from us.

It was the perfect party for us as we got to take full control.

From our usual standards of serving and topping up bubbles as guests arrived and circulating boards of hand made canapés I was busily preparing in the kitchen, to the exact moment we had been asked to announce dinner to be served in the dining room.

The starter opted for from our 5 choice tailored menu was braised oxtail, shallot risotto, parsnip, parsley and horseradish.

A perfect choice for the wintery evening we had last night.

The oxtail was rich and meaty as you'd expect, placed in a charred shallot shell and topped with dehydrated parsnips.

The risotto, velvety and creamy, finished with a roasted shallot puree and drizzled with the braising juices from the beef.

Dots of buttery parsnip puree and the whole dish finished with a parsley crunch and microplanes fresh horseradish.

This is a real "me" dish. When you look at the flavour breakdown, there's no wheel being reinvented here, they have all been proved time and time again to not just work together, but create a solid marriage.

What makes this different is the techniques used and being clever and creative how you pull the ingredients in always thinking about the fundamentals of creating a divine dish; texture - always good to give the old washers something to do, after all, who wants to eat baby food?

Temperature - always interesting to have a little surprise in there when you can.

Acidity - now for me this is the REALLY big one. You need to consider how to build acidity into the dish without it tasting acidic. This takes practice and experience to know when to stop adding or when to cleverly add something intentionally acidic to cut through all of the butter and natural fats.

In this dish you maybe surprised to know there are actually 4 types of acids being used without the dish tasting of vinegar at all.

There is sherry vinegar (a personal favourite) in the risotto, the shallot puree, and the sauce., We have Cabinet Sauvignon vinegar in the oxtail marinade. Lemon juice in the parsnip puree and aged balsamic vinegar to finish the charred shallots.

Anyway - enough of this as reading back its becoming way too "cheffy" and I'm not sure you all want to read about me ramble on about seasonings etc, maybe we'll save that for a future blog?

Main course was an "old" favourite of mine (and of the guest who chose it and ate it often) that I came up with when I was head chef at Luscombes.

Roast wild seabass, Dorset crab tortellini, fennel, lemon spinach and oyster emulsion.

This is a very delicate dish and balancing flavours is key.

Too bold and the delicate crab will be lost, too subtle and the seabass will take-over and be the only predominant flavour.

Like I 'ranted' on about above, the oyster emulsion is the huge acid flavour here and it is a great mixture of slightly salty sea water from the oyster paired with slightly sweet Chardonnay vinegar which was reduced with shallots and thyme to leave an almost bernaise sauce reduction without the aggressive notes.

Apologies - I can't help myself, I'm going "cheffy" again for a paragraph or two.

Tortellinis and well, pasta in general has remained an absolute favourite job of mine in any kitchen throughout my career.

From the early days as a young chef in London where Marco Pierre White took me under his wing and taught me to make fresh pasta, from Tortellini to ravioli to tagliatelle - I loved it all and this has stayed with me throughout my career.

Making these little "soldiers" yesterday was one of the highlights of my prep work.

Dessert last night was roast English apple, rum and raisin, molasses ice cream, sesame biscuit and honeycomb.

During prep yesterday I did one of these dishes up as I had bought new plates (a birthday present from my mother - she never knows what to buy), and wanted to make sure the dish was right for the plate.

Anyway, not wanting it to go to waste I offered it to my 14 year old daughter who immediately dove into the ice cream who gave it the double thumbs up.

Always good to get my chief taster's mark of approval.

If you are thinking of hosting a dinner party, canapé party or a finger buffet please do drop me an email and I'd love the opportunity to tailor the event to your exact requirements and impress and wow all your guests.

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