Q&A: Neil Forbes – Cafe St Honoré
Head Chef talks festive food as Christmas approaches
How does your restaurant change in look and atmosphere in December? What effect are you hoping for?
Cafe St Honoré doesn't add much to its already wonderful Parisian-feel. We simply add a few twinkles to the lighting and have our own Christmas puddings for sale, and of course, the smell of mixed spice fills the space with Christmass-y aromas!
What are the challenges in catering for larger groups and parties? What works? What doesn't work?
There are sometimes a few challenges cooking for large groups, but as we ask groups to pre-order from our festive menu I have to say things normally run very smoothly. We find that after a few drinks people are having a happy time and everyone is enjoying themselves. We have discovered that party poppers don't work at Cafe!
Anything new and exciting likely to be on your December menu this year?
Yes, an incredible product that we recently discovered called Peasemeal. It's a really old scots flour made from grinding yellow split peas. We’re getting ours from Golspie Mill in Sutherland (not many people mill it!). It’s a great, historical food that we should all try using. It’s delicious with boiling ham stock poured over and mixed into a delicious paste. Think creamy pea and ham soup.
Any top tips for cooking for a big group at home?
Do as much prep as possible before your guests arrive: tatties peeled, veg peeled (and even blanched and refreshed), sauces and gravies made. And pudding, why not make it cheese but make your own oatcakes or beremeal bannocks!
OK, a stalk of fresh brussels sprouts has just arrived in the kitchen. What do you do next?
I love sprouts. Firstly use the sprout tops. Shred them into a pan with some crispy bacon, chopped hazelnuts and of course butter. For the sprouts themselves, halve and blanche in boiling salted water for a couple of minutes then toss in butter, chestnuts and tarragon. Yum. Then have a sword fight with the stalks!
What's your favourite day of the Christmas season? What are you likely to be eating?
I get a tad emotional on Christmas eve thinking of loved ones and family that you can’t be near at this special time in the year. I also think of families who are struggling or children with no presents to open – it makes us appreciate what we have and how lucky we are!
Mrs Chef and I are woken early on Christmas day by our boys, so it's lots of strong coffee all morning. We have our big meal around 3pm – always a Grierson’s Organic chicken with stuffing, chipolatas and sprouts. The sprouts are just for me sadly, as no one else in our house eats them. And to finish, a Cafe St Christmas Honoré Christmas pud of course!