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                                                                                                            Karen's Blog
        
 
                                                                                                     



7 June 2016.

As I reach the halfway mark I have taken a few days to reflect on what we have done so far this year. I always like to look at my menus and what
dishes have proved popular. It's always important to look at trends and what people have been choosing. One thing that struck me is how much Thai Chicken Curry I have done this year. It is one of my favorite dishes and I have a tried and tested recipe that I have been using for at least fifteen years. Although I don't have set menus it really is interesting how many people choose it from the thirty plus dishes that I do. Perhaps it's a dish that people don't have very often or as I prefer to think .. word has travelled that mine is pretty good. !!

Again I have been doing lots of lamb dishes. I love lamb and enjoy doing it and my slow roast lamb with plums has been really popular. Again I don't know why that is. It is an expensive meat and perhaps that is a reason why some caterers don't offer so much variation with lamb as opposed to chicken.

Away from food I have developed a greater interest in cricket. I have twin daughters of fourteen who I hope will start helping in the business in a few years.
At the moment they are obsessed with cricket and are  fortunate to represent Cheshire for their age group. Last year didn't really get anytime to watch them so this year I have decided to take a few days off to watch them. Well, when I say watch them, I watch, I can't say that I understand what is going on. !

The beauty of it though is that you get to visit some lovely cricket grounds. I was sat at a beautiful ground in Yorkshire today and another one in Derbyshire
on Thursday. When the weather is good there isn't many places better. !



4 January 2016.

I'd like to wish all readers of my blog a very happy and healthy new year.

We've had a very busy December and it's the first time in a couple of years I have spent Christmas day morning and Boxing day morning in the kitchen
preparing for functions.Fortunately all my Children are teenagers and typically still in bed until late morning so we managed to escape to the kitchen before they got up. By the time of the last Christmas function on the 27th we were all beginning to flake a bit and I was good for nothing for the next couple days.
It was my birthday on the 29th and I am partial to the sales so we went out to Chester for a bite to eat and bit of retail therapy. A very enjoyable day but I took a bit of a tumble on the cobbles outside the Chester Grosvenor. A bit embarrassing in front of so many people and no I hadn't been drinking.!

In the run up to Christmas we had our annual inspection from the environmental health department. You don't get much notice and I'd prefer it if wasn't at such a busy time. Nevertheless, the inspector is very nice and it's always good to be kept abreast of the latest developments on food safety. The most important new directive is that I have to inform on my menus the dishes that contain the most common allergens like gluten and nuts.

The inspector spends a couple of hours going through everything like our cold room temperatures, cooking and hot holding temperatures and our cleaning processes and records. I don't really like paperwork but there are records to be completed at the beginning and end of every working day. Anyway, we were awarded the top rating of 5 for food safety again so it's good to know that everything we do is up to scratch.

I have no really exciting plans for this year. Just to keep on doing what I always to. I am however, determined to have a holiday this year. We were too busy to have one last year and I don't want to let that happen again.!



9 October 2015

A Happy Occasion Tinged with Sadness

I'd like to share with you something that ocured very recently that was a very emotional and memorable experience for me. I was approached by a new and very worthwhile charity "a gift of a wedding" to provide the catering for a hastily arranged wedding. Essentially, this charity organises weddings for couples where one or both of the couple has a terminal illness. I was approached with just about a weeks notice to produce a cold buffet for eighty people. I had a lot of work that week and under normal circumstances I would have not felt able to do it, but it just affected me and I felt I had to help if at all possible. It was last Saturday, but as we had a function on Friday we were in the kitchen until midnight on Friday preparing and back in at 6 am on the morning to get it done.

We attended to serve on the day and too see the look on bride and grooms faces as they returned to their house to greet their guests and eat is something that was really emotional and I shall remember for a very long time. If any readers of my blog feel they could help this charity please contact .... a gift of a wedding.org.

I think they do a wonderful job. !



October 14
It's been a while since I've visited my blog. We've just returned from a half term break in Lanzarote. I need a break after the busy summer and I enjoy it there because we go to a very quiet area and it's just a world away from what I'm used to.

It's nice to be "waited on" hand and foot by going all inclusive although I do find after I get back it takes me a couple of days to get my focus back in the kitchen. It's a few days of quiet now before the storm. December is exceptionally busy although I'm looking forward to it. We're catering for a number of people and companies we worked for this time last year so I'm looking forward to meeting them all again. Mind you people seem to leaving the booking of caterers later and later for christmas parties these days and I've had to turn down three bookings this week for days we are already booked. 

I had a pleasant surprise whilst I was away. One of my staff found an old recipe of mine for one of my favorite desserts- Jamaican Ice Box Gateaux with Rum. It's delicious and I can't wait to do it again. So expect to see it on a few menus.!


April 14

I've noticed in the last couple of years, an increase in the numbers of people with dietary preferences. In particular, there seems to be an increase in the number of people who have a gluten intolerance. It's never really caused me a problem as there are so many gluten free ingredients, like flour and bread. However, in March we did a wedding for a couple on the Wirral. The bride who had a gluten intolerance had chosen the dishes and one of them was my signature dish "Beef Bourguignon". Although, I could use gluten free flour, one or two other ingredients did contain traces of gluten. She was keen to have the dish and asked me if I would try some gluten free ingredients of her recommendation. I did try them within my recipe, but the dish in my opinion wasn't as good as my original.

This did give me a bit of a dilemma. I want any dish I make to be the best of my ability, but at the same time giving the bride what she wanted. All I could do was say that I would happy to do as she required, but I didn't think the dish was a good as with my own recipe. Luckily, there were three other dishes on the menu and I could make them two of them gluten free. She chose an alternative and everything went well. One of the advantages of a buffet style wedding I suppose.

I have just returned from a few days in London. I've been promising my twin daughters a trip for a couple of years now and we've never quite found the time. It was their first time to experience the tube and to see all the sights and they were completely overwhelmed on how busy it was and how fast everything seemed.!

We ate out a couple of times and found a nice restaurant near Trafalgar Square. My son likes these places that do steak on a rock so you can finish cooking it yourself. Mine was lovely with a delicious red wine sauce although the shine was taken off it by the frozen chips.!



February 2014


Well, it's time for another blog entry.

January is a bit of strange month for me. Things are little quiet after new year and then as the children go back to school enquiries seem to flood in for the summer. It is also nice to have already received a few bookings for December next year. Three of these are for new customers who we worked for last December and they have decided to book us again.  To know that these customers enjoyed our food to the extent that they book us again so far in advance is by far the most satisfying aspect of my work.

January is also a month when we are constantly contacted by internet marketing companies trying to sell us their wares. I was advised by one chap to make my blog more user friendly. He recommended I put some of my recipes on my blog as that would be of more interest to people. I suppose I can understand this, but it seems to me that we're all bombarded with recipes these days from all directions and I'm not sure people want more and more.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend over Christmas. In the last year she has put on two stone and she blames it on the fact that everytime she switches on the TV there's a food programme on or a recipe thrust at her and the magazines and sunday supplements are just as bad. She's says they all sound lovely so she has to try them. She then said that if there was as much promotion on exercise as there is with food then there wouldn't be the weight problems there are.

I had to laugh...... but she's probably right.!


December 2013.


Mondays are always pretty quiet for me and it is normally the day I have off for a bit of retail therapy. As I'm working most weekends it's nice to go out when everywhere is quiet and I can find somewhere to park the car. However I spent today working in the kitchen on a new lamb recipe. I like lamb but I don't get to do it as often as beef or chicken dishes ,and of course it is a more expensive meat. Anyway, I tweaked a recipe to include plums and wine and a few other ingredients and I think it has come out really well. It went down well with my  "testers" who have given it the thumbs up and used at it a recent function so it's nice to add a new dish to some of next years menus.


This year has been really enjoyable and we've met some lovely people and been to some beautiful venues and some lovely little villages in Staffordshire that I hadn't visited before. We haven't done as many hog roasts this year and that's mainly because there are so many people doing them, I think there are now about 40 companies in Cheshire who do them. I don't really worry about competition because I'm confident in the quality of our service but it's bound to have some impact. I do also think hog roasts are getting very common, in fact at one hog roast we did in October a chap came up to me and said "Not another Hog roast." ! He'd been to 6 parties this year and five of them had hog roasts. He did say ours was one of the best but was getting sick of the sight of pork.!! Although, we still do hog roasts, we'll be focusing on making ours a little different.


A know a number of my regular customers read my blog so if you are a customer of mine I'd like to thank you for your business this year. If you are reading this blog and considering using us for you function I hope to hear from you in due course. In the meantime, I'd like to wish you a happy christmas and healthy new year.



October 2013

I have just returned from a short half term break in Spain, lovely weather, very tasty seafood paella and a variety of delicious tapas. The spanish food was

really good , but I always worry when they try traditional british dishes , they never quite get it right. 


During our holiday, I had the kitchen painted whilst I was away. It actually took quite a while to clear everything for the painter and one of the biggest jobs was sorting out all the recipe and cookery books we have accumulated over the last forty years. It was nice to sit down with a coffee last week and go through quite a few of them and it was interesting to read some from the 60's and 70's that my mum started off with. There was so many things that I remember doing but I no longer do. Sometimes, I don't things for a while then it slips from my memory and I no longer put it on any menus.


I had a spare few hours, so I made a few of my old favourites, chicken cheese balls, creamy prawns in a noodle nest, marinated mushrooms and a few new ones like crispy parmesan lollipops. It was nice to make them again and I'll probably introduce them to a few menus. It's a shame some things go out of fashion, good food is good food whether the recipe is fifty years old or two.



May 13

Although the weather has been a bit hit and miss so far this spring, we have been doing lots of cold buffets in recent months. I really like

cold food, but they are hard work, we make all the food including cooking all our own ham and beef and we now bake all our own bread .

There is such a lot to do and in order for the food to be fresh and colourful, it pretty much has to be done on the day of the function and some items the day before and it's very labour intensive. Hence our cold buffet buffet prices are a little more than our hot food.


I've never really appreciated the reputation british food has abroad.I've read about it in the press but never really understood what the perception is.


Last month we catered for a large American organisation, over a few days. Many of the guests were from North and South America,Russia, Poland, Eastern Europe, Asia, Western Europe etc. You do have a give a lot of thought to the food provided and ensure that the flavours work well together and it meets a variety of culinary tastes. We met some lovely people and at the end of the week, one of the guests came over to me, I think he was from France or Spain..

and said... "thank you for the food this week.......it has been very good....... you have changed my view of english food.!!. It was such a nice thing to say.

it made my week.!!


Finally, I'm feeling a bit for my potato supplier....Gordon in Antrobus. Like most potato farmers he had a really bad season last year and he has had to delay

his harvesting of the crop this year, again due to bad weather. I hope we have a good few weeks, I'm missing his Ulster Princes.!!



February 2013

Well, it seems food is the centre of attention at the moment. It's really unfortunate and it must be a real problem for many people. We have very few worries as we don't use any processed meats in our dishes and all our meat is purchased from local independent butchers who get their meat from local abbatoirs.It does make you think though, many times I've wondered how some food is really cheap. Knowing what good ingredients cost, I've sometimes been amazed how cheaply processed meat can be sold.


It's great to see Mary Berry on the TV at the moment. I've always liked her and one of the first cookery books I bought was written by her. I think she was someone who helped inspire my passion for homemade food. I also like watching Jamie Oliver, I love his enthusiasm and obvious love for food. I do think however, he is a little optimistic in cooking his dishes in 15 minutes.!!


I was caught in the office yesterday, by a website design company touting for business. It was suggested that our website might be a  "little more "Glossy" and "Glitzy" with some state of art sharp pictures". "To make  it more current" were the words used. Obviously, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I'm not about gloss and glitz. I think if I specialised in fine dinning or nouvelle cuisine that may be applicable but traditional homemade food is our passion and I think our website accurately reflects that.!




 July 2012

Last week we had our regular yearly inspection from Cheshire West and Chester borough council environmental health department. They are
very thorough and go through the kitchen, our methods and systems together with our food temperature,cold room and cleaning records. We are pleased
to maintain the top mark of 5 (Very Good) for food hygiene and safety. It's always interesting when they come and to be updated on any new developments
in food safety. They also tell you of the odd horror story and basic errors that some catering establishments have made.

To view our certificate - click here
Hygeine Certificate1.pdf

They did ask in particular, how we cooked our hogs. She was pleased that we cook our pigs fully on site rather than the common practice of part cooking
in advance which they are not too keen on. It seems to me that the meat would start to dry out in transportation and although the correct temperature
could be reached I'm not sure the quality would be there.

It's been a very busy summer so far, and no rest in sight, so I don't think I'll catch much of the olympics. My footy mad girls are going to watch some of the Womens football at Old Trafford next week and hubby was lucky to get some tickets for the rowing the week after. As for me....... the kitchen as usual.!

Regards,

Karen


22 May 2012

Well, I haven't visited my blog recently, so I think it's about time for an update before we have the two busiest months of the year, June and July.

It's a lovely day today, so I'm sat in the garden with a nice glass of wine.! Hubby and Children are also very happy as Manchester City have won the league, although Footy is not really for me.!

On the 1 November it will be forty years ago to the day that my mother Pam Clegg set up the business and I have been working in the business for about twenty three years. I'm in reflective mood and feel really lucky  to have been in business such a long time and still enjoying everything
about it. We've never had any great ambition to grow the business to be a huge catering company offering a great variety of services. We've always focused on producing tasty, and flavoursome homemade food using primarily traditional recipes that we may have tweaked a bit along the way. In my opinion, there's nothing like a traditional fish pie with the best cuts of salmon, cod loin, and smoked haddock or a well made beef bourguignon.

We were thinking of having a big party to celebrate our anniversary, but after giving it some thought, i wanted to give something back to our customers who have supported us over the years, so I'm thinking of a couple of ideas that I'll put on the website in November.

Finally, I'd like to thank all the customers who have used us , it has been a real pleasure to cater for lovers of good food.

Long may it continue.

Kind regards,

Karen




14 January 2012

First and foremost I'd like to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year.

I have just returned from a short break in the Canary islands after a very busy festive season. This time I thought I'd have a break
from cooking and go all inclusive. It was a real experience although there wasn't very much Spanish food which I was looking forward
to in the hotel. I was really amazed at the amount of food available, but also the amount of waste. I really don't like waste
and it is quite sobering to think that a few miles to the east in Africa, there are people absolutely desperate for food.!

This is a celebratory year for us as it was forty years ago this year that my mother started the business and I have been working
 in it about twenty two years. Its amazing to think that we have  a few customers for whom we have been catering
for over thirty years.!

We were planning on having a party for our birthday later in the year, although I think I'll tone that down now and make a donation to
famine charity in Africa.

Kind Regards,

Karen


September 2011

Well, I've neglected my blog for a couple of months.......but i have been busy. So it's about time for a few more
thoughts. We've had a very enjoyable summer and worked for some lovely people and apart from the odd occasion the weather
has behaved itself.

We did a lovely wedding in Edale, such a beautiful setting in the peak district. Unfortunately, it was very windy and it played
havoc with the marquee that had been provided for us, we were having to hold it still with our bare hands whilst serving
the coffee. It all went well in the end.!

It's amazing to think that we will have been in business 40 years next year and myself just over twenty. I can't think of a day
when I haven't enjoyed my work, there's been some stressful times like any business, but it is so much easier to deal
with when you enjoy what you do. I don't think much has changed in that time, certainly dishes change and popularity of
dishes change but I do think there is always a demand for fresh ,delicious, homemade traditional food.

We've been thinking about how to celebrate our anniversary and we are currently thinking of a party with a celiegh band,
but there is a lot of planning yet to do, including finding a free Saturday. !!

Those of you who know me and read my blog will know that I am not great with modern technology devices . It got even worse for me recently
when some new corporate customers requested paying their bill with American Express. I'm fine with cheques and can get by with BACS, but a credit card terminal has stumped me. Another job for hubby.!!

Kind Regards,



June 2011
 

It seems there is yet another food programme to hit our  TV screens.!

 

I received a call the other day from the BBC to see if I would be interested in getting involved in a new programe about cooking

focusing on traditional recipes and food "your mother used to make" . Now, i'm not sure I could stand another programe about food,

there are so many, even though I love food, it does get a bit boring when it seems to be on all the time. I have politely declined,

although I'm comfortable in the kitchen, being on TV fills me with horror......I'm not the most photogenic person ,

a picture of me on my website is quite enough thank you.


 

This is probably the busiest time of the year for us so there is lots of early starts and late evenings and the inquiries for next summers'

weddings which always seem to come in about a year in advance. I've also been approached by some specialist canape and dessert suppliers to

see if I would be interested in buying their products. Sometimes, when I'm in the kitchen at 6am preparing food for the day it seems like a good idea.....

one less thing to think about .....but then I come to my senses....Although they may be very nice, it  would mean  placing my reputation

in the hands of someone else and that isn't something I could do. We've always made our own food and built our reputation on it, so it's here to stay.

 

Kind Regards,

 

Karen



May 2011.

Well. It’s the night of Barcelona against Real Madrid and the family is gathered around the TV.  Footie is not for me,

so it’s a choice between the ironing and a blog entry…… the blog won!

 

I was struggling to think about what to write, but after going through a few e-mails, I thought I’d talk about something

that happens to all companies…..the business I’ve lost.

 A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a lovely lady, thanking us for our quote saying she had decided not to use us,

but only because we don’t do chocolate fountains and it made it easier to use another caterer who was offering this service

as she just had one point of contact. I can fully understand this view and this is something that has happened a few times

over the years, when we have been asked to provide marquees, bars, chair covers which again, are things we don’t do.

(Although we can recommend other companies)

 I have also lost a couple of bookings on price and just yesterday was asked to match another caterer at £5 per head on a hot dish

and £3.95 per head for a finger buffet. The simple fact is that I can't produce food that I would happy with at these costs. I would have to cut corners and compromise my standards and that is something I wouldn't feel comfortable doing. I can't guarantee that we will be the cheapest quote you receive because we

probably won't be. But I can guarantee you delicious homemade food that will be enjoyed and remembered by you and your guests.


Now I know budget is important and with three children under eleven we have to budget carefully.

 

However, food can be different. If we take the children out to eat, we could go to the local 2 for 1. We know it will be cheap, although the food can be a bit hit and miss. If we go to a recommended restaurant, we’ll certainly pay more, but the food is usually very tasty and a little different.



Our 40th Anniversary Blog And Our Free Gift For You. ( Expires 31 December 2012)

On the 1 November it will be 40 years to the day, that my mother did her first booking after setting up the business.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to think how to celebrate being in business for so long as I am very grateful to be able to continue to enjoy working in a industry I’m passionate about.

Initially we were going  to have a big party, but after a bit of thought, I think the money is better spent on the people who really need food, so I have made a

donation to a famine charity.

 

Many companies, when they reach a anniversary milestone have a big promotion on their products and I saw one recently where one organisation offered 25% off their prices. I’m a firm believer that you can’t really do that with food. I’m always a bit wary when people reduce food costs  as I know what good ingredients cost,(ever increasing unfortunately) and it normally means the cutting of corners somewhere. I'm not comfortablecutting corners as I've always wanted to make my own food, and by using the best ingredients, make dishes to the best of my ability.


I could lower my prices by buying in canapes or desserts and that would certainly make things easier, but it doesn't really fit my thinking. I see myself as a maker of food rather than a reseller of other peoples food and once you start doing that, you place your reputation in someone else' hands.


In any event, I'd much rather have a reputation for producing "good" food rather than "cheap" food.

 

We wanted to do something for our customers, so we have come up with the following special offer as a "thank you" ........


I have always thought it's nice to have the odd night away and the full english breakfast cooked for you. Therefore, I have allocated some of my marketing budget to offer you a one or two night* stay at our family 5 star guesthouse located at our premises completely free when you book us to provide the catering at your function. This is for double occupancy including breakfast. This offer expires on 31 December 2012.... I can't finance it forever.!

 


                         
      The Guest House                     English Country Room                        African Room                           Feng  Shui Room                                     Oriental Room

                           
        Breakfast Room                      Contemporary Room                          Beach Room                                  Guest Lounge                                 Classic Room

 

 

 

All rooms are en suite with guest controlled heating, free view TV and internet access. The guest house is fully self contained so you are free to come and go as you please.

 

*This offer is available only for bookings above 60 guests and on new enquiries and bookings made between 1 November and 31 December 2012 for functions

  prior to 31 December 2013.

 

* Date and room availability cannot be guaranteed and is subject availability.

 

* Full terms and conditions will be provided on receipt of your deposit for a function.

 

 

July 2012.