So where are we up to with Cafe Waltshaw?… there aren’t really any developments on this front, and there won’t be anything tangible to report for quite a while yet. This is not to say that we aren’t thinking about it constantly and factoring it into other things we do. Recently I have started to draw up draft menus, as a sort of thinking aloud process. I want to get to a stage where we have a workable menu that we can cost – in time and money – so it can form part of the business plan we will eventually take to the bank. Once you start writing it all down, more and more things occur to us, so we have a pile of drafts on the kitchen table covered in our scrawl as they keep evolving.

 There are a lot of balances to strike when doing this – and obviously it might all change when we get to the actual opening of a business, but even in its hypothetical form it is still worthwhile thinking about. The most obvious one is cost and profit – and squaring that with wanting to be as ethical as we can. The other big challenge is offering enough choice to customers, without that taking too much time in the kitchen. We are not going to be able to pay many people to cook, in fact it will probably just be me and one other to start with – so we need to factor this in. I think the solution is to make as much stuff as possible in advance, and then just cook certain things quickly to order. So I could spend the whole morning prepping salads, sides, soups and specials – and then the meat and other things could be cooked on a grill to order. This should keep service quite quick and not heap too much pressure on the kitchen at, what will hopefully, be busy times. I think we have also agreed to sell mains and sides separately, to keep the menu more versatile for customers and create more choice without more dishes…. so the grilled chicken will be a set price and then you can choose to have it with potato salad, with fries, in a sandwich, or with tabouleh (for example).

So that’s roughly where we are. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t really quite hard at the moment, my day job has been quite tough of late, I have been ill, and with college and just general life stuff it has felt like a bit of a slog. The realisation of this dream is still quite a long way off – but we can’t do any more than we are doing. It is a pleasure, when we have a rare treat of an evening in together, to sit at the kitchen table and talk over the menus and keep it alive a bit.

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In other news I have been continuing with Project Game, and bought two whole wild rabbits from the butcher on Friday, then went about trying to turn them into a pie. I shall spare the more anatomical pictures of this process but here is the end product, which had a rustic charm:

It was a very tasty pie of rabbit poached in cider with mushrooms, with a rough-puff pastry top, which we ate with roast parsnips and some shiraz. Nice. The rabbit lived up to my expectations, in that it is very savoury and tasty, but not at all fatty so it also tasted quite clean. It’s a very cheap meat, and not very messy to prepare, but you do need to spend some time on it and cook it slowly or it will be dry and a bit tough. I can imagine rabbit pies being a special in Cafe Waltshaw: the profit margin would be good and they would tick all the ethical boxes. Customers might need a bit of talking round to the idea, but once tasted, I’m sure they’d do well. Next stop for Project Game will be venison, which I am hoping to cook next Saturday for a very special guest. Then all I need to do is catch some squirrels.

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As some of you will have read elsewhere, last week at college I sustained my first culinary injuries and sliced across two fingers when boning a shoulder of lamb. It was an undignified incident and the result of carelessness and inexperience in equal measure. Subsequently I got behind with the rest of the evening’s cooking, and my jelly didn’t have time to set. Which meant my bavaroix was not ready on time either. At least I managed not to bleed on the lamb, though I am quite sure I got essence of lamb in my wound.

I did wonder if that would result in some genetic splicing – like at the beginning of Spiderman – but I don’t seem to have developed a superhuman urge to gambol; and as TOMW will attest, I am already quite good at bleating.

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