College cooking...

An initiative started nearly two years ago to bring together Hartlepool restaurants and the College of Further Education is still going strong.
This has led to a few of the local chefs working with the students to cook up a few of their dishes to a local hungry audience.
Yesterday, Steve of Al Syros restaurant prepared a delicious array of his own dishes with the help of a few of the catering students.
Many of Hartlepool's chefs and managers enjoyed a three-course meal for a mere £12.
I plumped for the pigeon, sea bass and strawberry soup, while Karen had the marinated scallops, duck magret and grilled pineapple. We shared our table with the Staincliffe Hotel's Mark and his wife, our Adam and Hayley.

A great new recipe...

You will remember that back in December our head-chef, Madjid was diagnosed with heart problems and was scheduled to have a triple heart bypass. Well, after a long and worryin wait, Madjid was finally and successfully operated on a week last Monday. I drove him home from James Cook Hospital las Saturday where he is now convalescing before he begins his rehabilitation programme. Another few weeks of gentle exercise and he hopes to be back at work.
Good and speedy recovery, Madjid!

On a lighter note, I didn't know that Muhammad Ali could cook but here is a great recipe of his. I think I definitely would like to try a plateful of this beautiful dish.

Healthy Eating Competition Winner...

A little while ago, you'll remember, Stranton School organised a healthy eating competition. Mark, the Expochef, Mr Drummond, our town mayor and I had the pleasurable task of picking the winner out of four finalists. The competition was tough! Just a fiver to produce a main-course and a dessert!

The winner was Donna who really impressed us judges with her beautiful shepherd's pie. Enough to feed half a dozen hungry schoolchildren. As a prize, I provided the school with a meal voucher and last week, Donna and her four kids came to Portofino to enjoy her winnings.
Despite the untimely loss of her husband just before Christmas, Donna found the strength to compete and win.
Click on the link to read:
Donna's story as told by the Hartlepool Mail.

An Ode to Rosemary and Thyme...

THYME flies when you're having FENNEL.
We've CINNAMON CUMIN and going.
We never got CARAWAY by our success.
No matter how CHILLI the North wind blew,
It was SAGE to CURRY on serving a good stew.
I sat making OREGANO planes with old menus,
And landed them in the waste PEPPER basket.
The mirror told me to turn a new BAY LEAF,
But, I CORIANDER piling on the beef.
To all our long SAFFRON staff,
Truly the SALT of the Earth,
Please kindly accept this BOUQUET GARNI
For GINGERLY putting up with me.
COS LETTUCE be honest, I think I have gone
PARSLEY NUTMEG, nearly as faulty as BASIL.
After eleven SEASONINGS in Sunny Seaton,
Could it be all the beef that I have eaten?
If this sounds all FENUGREEK to you,
It is MINT to be!
Says who?
SESAME, Krimo!

I wrote this daft thing in 1996 for the restaurant's 11th birthday!

Twenty minute circuit

Hartlepool Marina looks tiny from the air but I can assure you that it takes 20 minutes at a brisk pace to walk all the way round it.
On Mother's Day 2006, I ate a starter at Casa, I think it was a dish of tiger prawns in chilli, (Gambas Pil Pil)
After that, I walked to Portofino, where I had a full beef dinner with all the trimmings, (Noel had raved so much about his gravy and Yorkshire puddings, I had to give them a try.)
I then slowly made my way to Krimo's for the dessert. I think it was a light orange Crème Brûlée.
Guess what I did next...
A long siesta!
On the odd sunny day, I leave the car at Portofino and walk to the other restaurants. The sun seems to put a spring in my step. Or could it be the promise of a handful of jelly beans at Casa?

Staff Profile: Joey Clark

Position: Head Waitress at Portofino
Joined the restaurant: 1st September 2004
Initial job: Waitress
Job History: None. Portofino was my first job from school.
What do I like about working here? Friendly atmosphere and staff
Favourite dishes: Chicken and Pasta
Favourite holidays: Zante and Kos (Greece), Turkey, Florida, Barcelona and Costa del Sol
Places I'd like to visit: New York, Chicago, China, Australia, Italy...
Heroes: Superman and my Mam!

About me: I love working here. I will be sad to leave when I have to fly the nest ;o(

Krimo says: Joanne, Joey, Jo-babe... has been with us for the last for four years now. She is at Uni at the moment and will be leaving us in August. She is one of those easy souls who just glide effortlessly around doing a very good job of looking after customers, training new staff, always with a smile...

Jo-babe, though your sister Nicole makes better tea than you, you are one of the rare people who cheer me up with your shiny personality and cheeky smile. Especially when you say:"I need some Mula!" Glad you explained that it was the money you needed for our Saturday shopping list. If you're anything like Katie, one of your bestest friends and one of most memorable members of staff, who's back for another stint, I am sure that we will see again well after you've left us in August... Fingers crossed!

The Great British Menu...

I am hooked!

Having just discovered BBC iPlayer which definitely makes the unmissable, unmissable I watched the first heat, all five episodes of it, from start to finish, last Saturday night-Sunday morning.

The contestants, well-known and truly accomplished chefs from many regions of Great Britain, have to devise a fantastic three-course meal using any ingredients they wish to choose as long as the main one is British.

Having come back from Birmingham feeling a little sorry for myself, mainly because I had no idea what the judges were looking for, I find that this marvelous program is stirring something inside me.

Getting back into the kitchen!?!

I wonder whether this crazy idea is just a passing fad or a true calling! Back to a hot stove?
Definitely a crazy idea!
I think...

Are you sure you're closed?

A friend of mine spotted this sign somewhere in Africa but it could've been anywhere in the world.

I wonder whether it is meant for those inebriated souls who insist on having one for the road.

Competitive know-how...

No, I didn't win the competition but I did win a £250 voucher at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants in London. That'll probably be just enough for two starters!
The competition was held at Birmingham University College. The very modern kitchen where the whole thing took place cost over a million pounds! One of the cleaners proudly said that each cooker cost thirty thousand pounds.
There were five other competitors and, unlike me, they all had competed at one time or another in the past. I felt very relaxed as I had practiced the dishes quite a few times over the last two weeks.
We were all given a finish time by which we had to produce three portions, one for the official photo and the other two for the judges to taste.

I cooked my Fish Tagine and then a dish using sustainable Pacific Cod Loin.

At 2.30pm the winning chef was revealed. The other five received the Ramsay voucher.
Later the winner said he had already won another competition with the same dish. I think he is onto a winning formula.

Would I ever enter another competition again? Not sure about myself but I might help our young chefs enter and win them now that I know what is expected.

As I travelled to Birmingham the night before the competition, I ate at the Michelin-starred Simpsons. The food and service were out of this world.

The tall ships...

...are coming to Hartlepool!

This is an amazing event which will put Hartlepool on the World map!

When they last came to the North East, Hartlepool played host to a few tall ships on their way to Newcastle. Check out the tall ships on the Tyne!
One million visitors invaded the city in August 2005 to wave the ships goodbye before they sailed on to their final destination Fredrikstad in Norway.
In August 2010, Hartlepool WILL BE the final destination, so one cannot begin to imagine the number of visitors that will flock to the town.
This year's Maritime Festival in July will serve as a dry-run to that massive event.