Surprise Surprise!

THE LITTLE GERANIUM: For Denise and Eddie I served a little velouté of celeriac with white truffles and wild mushrooms. Photo: Steven Saunders

This week Celebrity Chef from Ready Steady Cook & Fellow Master Chef Steven Saunders, proprietor of The Little Geranium in La Cala cooks us a little surprise!

FOR some time now we have been cooking great food and innovative dishes especially for our tasting menus, but more recently clients have simply asked me to cook a menu of my choice for them …a surprise! 

One of those clients and friends is Denise Van Outen very well-known as one of the judges on Ireland’s got Talent and from the ITV show Loose Women among many other things! 

Now Denise and I go back quite a few years when I presented a show on Channel 4 called Here’s one I made earlier.

On this show I introduced chefs like Mark Wogan (Terry´s son) and Aaron Patterson (Hambledon Hall fame) who cooked something in front of a small studio audience literally sitting around the kitchen table directly in front of the chefs so that they could see everything we were doing very clearly.

The idea was that they would ask questions as we cooked away and there lies the problem! Studio audiences are great at clapping and chanting when we need them to, but turn and point a camera directly at them and they clam up!

The show went out live on Channel 4 at 9.30 am, straight after The Big Breakfast so Denise and Chris Evans would often hand it over to us. Years later we had a wedding at my hotel near Cambridge for one of the band members of Keane and Denise was there along with Chris Martin (Coldplay) and the band members from the Killers.

I met up with Denise for a chat, but she seemed a little out of it. She had been drinking that absinthe and had sort of lost the plot, not surprising really as it’s 100 per cent alcohol! (She did well to keep standing after that stuff!)

Anyway wind on more years and Denise and her partner (Eddie) have bought a place near to La Cala and when she texted me to book a table, she asked if I could do them a surprise menu.

More and more people are asking for this literally telling me what they don’t eat and then saying, ‘ok its down to you chef’ and I cook them six or eight courses of inspired new dishes.

For Denise and Eddie I served a little velouté of celeriac with white truffles and wild mushrooms as an amuse to warm up their taste buds. 

I followed that with a small pie of quail with foie gras on cabbage cooked with black sesame and then a scallop cooked tempura with a lobster claw and Katsu sauce.

Next was sous vide organic lamb with saffron pickle, roasted beets and French trimmed lamb cutlet, black truffle jus, onion foam and then my tidy Eton mess! 

I was going to add more little courses but Denise said … “beautiful but no more!”

At that point I joined them and we opened a few bottles of wine, as you do.  A friendly Spanish cop popped in to tell us to keep the noise down and we talked until 5am and caught up on everything that’s been happening for the last 20 years.

So menu surprise surprise was a hit! Denise messaged me “Fantastic amazing food and great chef! Of course” (blush)

In the world of tasting menus an amuse is seriously important as it’s the first thing that the client tastes, it has to be amazing.

My recipes are pretty secret to me but I share them exclusively with EWN and here is the fab celeriac velouté that Denise and Eddie had, but don’t tell everyone!


An amuse comes from the French words amuse -bouche which literally means amuse the mouth. It’s a small taste of the chef’s genius, usually served complimentary when presented in a restaurant.

Celeriac & truffle velouté (Makes at least 6)

2 tablespoons of cooked wild mushrooms

50g unsalted butter

1 large whole celeriac, peeled, coarsely chopped into 2 cm chunks

1 onion peeled and chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

500ml cooking cream

1 litre of fresh vegetable stock see below

1 small punnet of wild mushrooms cooked with a little garlic for finish

1 tablespoon of good quality white truffle oil

Olive oil for frying

For the vegetable stock

I head of garlic cut in half cross section

2 sticks celery

1 leek

1 carrot

Small bunch fresh parsley

Small bunch of fresh thyme

1 glass of white wine

1 tablespoon of vegetable stock granules or 1 vegetable stock cube

2 bay leaves

Method: Wash all the vegetables well and roughly chop into small pieces.        

Cover with cold water and bring to the boil.

When boiling reduce to a simmer and add the fresh herbs and the wine.           

Simmer on low heat for 20 mins

Remove the bay leaves, the garlic and the herbs and allow to sit and cool whilst you make the soup.

Method for Soup

Heat butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until foaming and add a little olive oil.

Add celeriac, onion, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until celeriac has softened (but not coloured!).

Add the cream and the vegetable stock with all the vegetables above.

Bring to the boil and immediately reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the celeriac is tender.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Season to taste. It should be thick and creamy. Pour a little into each bowl and top with the cooked wild mushrooms (re-heated) and a drizzle of truffle oil in each bowl.

Follow Steven on Instagram: saunderschef

Email any questions [email protected]

The Little Geranium, Winner of Best Contemporary International Restaurant 2019-Costa Del Sol

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Steven Saunders

Steven Saunders FMCGB - The Little Geranium - La Cala de Mijas & Marbella


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