The best way to explain The London Foodie Japanese Supper Club is in Luiz’ own words:

“The aim of my supper club is to recreate the kind of food I used to eat at home, cooked by my Japanese family in Sao Paolo, or the cuisine I learned during the time I lived in Japan. This is not an unsophisticated style of cooking, but neither is it the kind of Japanese food familiar in the UK – no sushi rolls or sashimi is on the menu tonight.”

Having enjoyed Luiz’ cooking a number of times in the days before he gave up his job in investment-banking to gain a Cordon Blue Grand Diplome (and also made an extended trip to Japan to further expanded his knowledge and skills), I finally booked to attend his Japanese Supper Club, hosted in his beautiful North London home.

On arrival, we gathered in the living room where we were served soft drinks or complimentary G&Ts and some delicious canapes of Leek and Tofu Gyoza with home-made Teriyaki sauce and Shichimi (Japanese seven spices) Popcorn.

Downstairs, the real feast began:

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Starter 1 – Sea Bass Sushi “Gangnam Style” with Garlic-Soy Jus, Pickled Daikon & Carrots, Spinach and Sesame

 

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Starter 2 – “Nasu Dengaku” – Grilled Aubergine, Miso Dengaku & Mozzarella cheese

 

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Main 1 – Pork Belly, Cod & Seafood Nabe Hotpot in a Spicy Dashi Broth

 

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Accompaniment – Tempura of Courgette Flower Stuffed with Scallop, Tofu and Lemon Mousse and Broccoli and Oyster Mushroom

 

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Main 2 – Pan-fried Beef & Vegetable Maki Rolls in a Rich Soy & Mirin Sauce

 

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Accompaniment – “Tamagoyaki” Sweet, multi-layered Japanese Omelette

Accompaniment – Edamame rice, mange-tout, spring onions (not pictured)

 

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Dessert – Flourless Chocolate Cake with Armagnac Prunes served with Quenelle of Homemade Green Tea Ice Cream

Guests were also treated to a complimentary glass of dessert wine.

 

As you can see, this was an epic feast. Every course was absolutely superb and I am sure you’ll agree that the suggested donation of £38 (plus service at your discretion) is an excellent deal. It’s also BYOB (no corkage), so you can bring whatever you like, whether that’s wine, beer or something soft.

Oh and be prepared to be sociable, this is an informal supper club in a private home and guests are seated together at long communal tables. I had a lovely evening talking about food, travel and all kinds of random topics with the two lovely ladies at my end of the table.

Oct 262011
 

Today is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Happy Diwali!

The name itself means “a row of lamps” and describes the traditional ghee-filled earthenware lamps which are traditionally lit in their hundreds and thousands. An unforgettably beautiful sight.

There are a number of different reasons and stories behind the festival which you can read about here and here.

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In our family, we light a candle in every single room of the house, and also place one at each external door. Mum cooks a wonderful Indian vegetarian meal for us to share.

My favourite dishes include mum’s simple potato curry with gravy served with fresh, hot, crispy pooris.

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image by Arne Hückelheim, Wikimedia Commons

This year, my personal Diwali celebrations started early, when I was invited to a Diwali-themed supper club hosted by Luiz (The London Foodie), catered by Maunika (Cook In A Curry) and sponsored by Tilda Basmati Rice.

This was a great coming together. Luiz is a consummate host and I’ve enjoyed many a wonderful evening in his beautiful home. The newly extended and refitted kitchen was even more envy-inducing than the old one, and is a fabulous venue for his regular cooking clubs and supper clubs.

I regularly find myself salivating when reading Maunika’s twitter stream, as she describes in loving detail the many fabulous Indian dishes she cooks on a regular basis, both at home and in her career as private chef, food writer and radio presenter. Born in Bombay, Maunika has researched and become an expert in the many varied cuisines of the Indian subcontinent and shared several of her favourites with us during the evening.

The unique properties of basmati rice – the magical flowery scent and woody undertones – are well known. Tilda is a brand that has been associated with sourcing and selling top quality basmati rice since the late 1960s, when it started a business importing and selling to the immigrant Asian community in the UK. Today Tilda’s rice is readily available in the UK and over 40 more countries worldwide. If you are of the mind set that “rice is rice” and surely all basmati rice is much of a muchness, I set you the challenge of buying a bag of Tilda and a bag of the cheapest value brand of basmati you can find. You will notice the difference!

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My favourite dishes of the evening were a Paneer Haraa Tikka for which Maunika marinaded cubes of paneer with garlic, chillies and sprinkled them with kala namak (dark Indian rock salt with a distinctive pungent taste from the dissolved sulhur), a fantastic Pineapple and Black Pepper Chutney, a flavour-packed Haraa Masala Chicken hailing from the Khoha community of India, full of coriander, mint and caramelised onions and a Keralan Fish Curry called Meen Moilee, consisting of moist fillets of sea bass in a rich coconutty gravy. Maunika’s Lamb Yakhni Pulao, made of course with Tilda Basmati, included succulent morsels of lamb mixed with rice that had been cooked in lamb stock and butter.

All delicious and very enjoyable. Thank you to Luiz, Maunika, Tilda and Wildcard for a wonderful evening. Happy Diwali!

 
Brunch

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One fine and sunny Saturday morning, earlier this month, I made my way to London Fields to enjoy a very fine brunch organised by Jordans Cereals and laid on by the lovely Uyen of the Fernandez & Leluu supper club.

The brunch was to introduce a group of us to the latest product from Jordans Cereals, their Creations Range. As well as trying the two new cereals, we were also treated to a huge selection of goodies from the most incredible lobster salad (with a genius passion fruit, lime and honey dressing) to home-made bacon and cheese pastry whirls, quiches and muffins and more, not to mention the tea, coffee, juices and prosecco – yes, prosecco in the morning! Oh and some fabulous panna cotta to finish…

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Conservation Grade

16 months ago I met some of the Jordans Cereal team, including one of the founders, Bill Jordan.

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I had lots and lots of fun using some of their Country Crisp cereal in a cake recipe, learning about how the product was developed and making up my own perfect combination of ingredients to take home in a box with my face on it!

I was particularly happy to learn, from Bill, that all the cereal used in Jordans Cereals is grown to Conservation Grade (by more than 50 farmers around Britain). What this means is that the farmers are paid a premium for their produce in return for creating nature-friendly habitats on 10% of their farmed land, thereby encouraging biodiversity – they plant wildflowers, clover and other plants to provide pollen, nectar and food for insects and birds, provide grassland habitat that will shelter spiders, beetles and small mammals and support wildlife by retaining hedges, ditches, old barns, ponds and woodland. As a very keen wildlife enthusiast and amateur wildlife photographer, wildlife and habitat conservation is a cause I’m passionate about, so this initiative is something that makes me very happy indeed. You can learn more at the Conservation Grade website.

Creations

Like their other products, the Creation range is made from Conservation Grade oats and all the other ingredients used also adhere to high environmental standards, with no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or GMOs.

Whereas the original granola range is super crunchy (which I really love) and the Country Crisp range gives a much lighter, puffier crunch (which I like, but not as much as the original granola), the new Creations cereals are soft and chewy. The oats are toasted lightly, sweetened a little with honey, combined with a little oil (to soften and preserve without the aid of artificial preserving agents) and then just a small number of ingredients such as cranberries, apples, cinnamon are added.

Ruth Fergyson, Head of New Product Development, explained that some of their potential customers find some of their cereals, those with lots of added fruits and nuts, often have an ingredient they don’t like and which puts them off. With the simpler combinations in Creations, Jordans are offering something to those consumers. The range is also designed to appeal to those who want a softer cereal than the typical hard granolas.

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The two flavours in the range so far are Juicy Cranberry & Golden Honey and Baked Apple & a Hint of Cinnamon. Of the two, I prefer the cranberry one, which surprises me as I am not usually a cranberry fan, but these are soft and sweet with just a hint of sharp that contrasts with the honey.

Getting Inventive

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Between the cereal and Uyen’s enormous feast, Rachel Kerr, Jordans’ Head of Brand Communications, invited us to try our hand at coming up with the next Creations flavour combinations using lots of ingredients provided in bowls along the table as inspiration to kick start our imaginations.

Challenge

With a beautiful green KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer offered as a prize for the winner, I quickly got my thinking cap on to see if I might be the one to suggest that perfect combination of textures and flavours for the next Creations… something that would appeal to the development team at Jordans and, most importantly, to their consumers.

I came up with a few ideas… my first one was figs with vanilla (plus the honey mixed in with the oats), a combination I think would be particularly nice to eat with natural yoghurt… I then wondered whether one could combine natural yoghurt into the cereal itself, much like those yoghurt covered nuts and dried fruit one can buy from health shops.

The next combination that jumped out at me was sticky dates with chewy toffee, a duo which works so well in sticky toffee puddings…

Ever sweet toothed, I also wondered whether a mocha combination would be pounced on by breakfast cereal eaters, or left on the shelf as being too indulgent for the morning… it would depend if they were coffee and pain au chocolat kind of people! As a big fan of mocha drinks and of coffee chocolate, I know I’d enjoy it!

But in the end, I chose to think about the adage that “what grows together goes together” and tested my favourite suggestion for a new Creations flavour:

What Grows Together Goes Together
Kavey’s Apricot & Pistachio Creation

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Pistachios are what are referred to as “culinary nuts” – not actually nuts, botanically speaking, but classified as such by our culinary usage. They likely originated in Western Asia/ the Middle East, and the region remains the main producer of pistachios today, with Iran growing more than any other nation. Their shells remind me of cupped hands, clasping the nut in a tight grasp. Cracking them open one after the other, to reveal their pretty purple-red skins and the pale green flesh inside, is part of what makes eating them so enjoyable. Pistachios taste a little like almonds, but with a softer texture and more subtle yet distinct flavour.

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Apricots are also thought to have originated in Western Asia, most likely in Armenia, though they’ve been cultivated so long, this is not altogether certain. These days, the largest producers are Turkey, Iran and Italy. Part of the prunus genus, which also includes plums, cherries, peaches and almonds, the soft amber-coloured fruits are a lovely balance of sweet and tart. Surprisingly, for a lover of fresh fruit, I adore dried apricots even more than fresh ones, particularly the meltingly soft, dark brown ones with their subtle caramel flavour and sweetness.

Interestingly, apricot kernels are widely used too – often so sweet they are substituted for almonds, and forming a key ingredient in amaretto liqueurs. Perhaps, edible apricot kernels might also be mixed into the cereal as well, for a little added crunch?

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Trying out my combination

Of course, I couldn’t propose my creation without testing it first, so I improvised. Using the cereal from my box of Juicy Cranberry & Golden Honey Creations, I discarded the cranberries (to be eaten later!) and mixed it with the Turkish apricots and Iranian pistachios I purchased especially.

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I thought the combination worked wonderfully well, both visually and in terms of taste and texture.

A lovely thought to leave you with:

The Turkish have an idiom “bundan iyisi Şam’da kayısı” the meaning of which is “it doesn’t get any better than this“. The literal translation, “the only thing better than this is an apricot in Damascus” tells you all you need to know – for something that is the very best it can be is a delicious apricot from Damascus!

 

I have always wanted to make a gingerbread house. It’s Domestic Goddess baking, Blue Peter model house making and Grand Designs Goes Hansel & Gretel all rolled into one!

I don’t know why I’ve never done it before other than that I found it too daunting, I guess.

So when Lex announced her special gingerbread house making supper club dates, I signed up. Quickly. Before I could chicken out.

A few days ahead of time, Pete helped me mix together and roll out the dough and I carefully cut out my wall and roof slabs, cutting simple door and windows and scalloped roof edges. Pete kindly baked my slabs whilst I was out gallivanting at The Chocolate Festival and Bar Boulud. I was really pleased with the careful shaping, even thickness and pretty colour.

On Sunday at noon I took my place in Lex and Johanna’s open plan kitchen diner and, after being welcomed with mugs of delicious hot soup, we got to work. Somehow, in transporting my slabs, one of them had cracked, so my first act was to affect a sugar-cement fix, embedding pieces of wooden skewers into the icing on the back of the slab. I left that piece to dry and started assembling the rest of my house. I was soon slathering sugar-cement all over the place (myself included) and raising the walls. To my delight, the fix held and all four walls were eventually up.

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My house, with fellow builder, Craig, behind

My first roof slab went on well and I was feeling happy.

And then disaster stuck.

I pressed down a little too firmly when pushing the second roof slab onto the sugar-cemented gables and it snapped vertically down the middle. Aaaaaargh! Disappointed with myself, I tried another fix job with more skewers and icing and left it to dry on the windowsill.

We paused our efforts for a fantastic starter of cured salmon with toasts and salad (with fresh leaves and herbs and a really special maple syrup dressing) followed by a selection of mains including roast lamb, honey glazed ham and an array of salads and vegetables.

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When the sweets came out I was excited but had absolutely no design ideas or thoughts on where to start. I began with the (unbroken) roof slab and affixed stripes of chocolate fingers, sherbet chewy straws, jelly tots and smarties. I quickly realised I had no unified theme in mind and my first efforts weren’t too pretty so I randomly decorated the various walls in completely different and un-matching styles!

The first time I tested my broken roof panel, it quickly sagged along the break again. And the same the second time. I was starting to think I’d have to take my house home in pieces and fix it at home.

Finally, I slathered an absolute tonne of sugar-cement on the top surface and used long strawberry chews to hold it together along it’s width. And after I let that dry a while again, I used three skewers laid across from gable to gable to take the slab’s weight before (carefully) pushing it into place.

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Inspired by another participant’s Chapel Of Love, I adorned the entrance side of the house with a simple K *heart* P. The snowman was added later, inspired by a similar one by yet another participant (though his original had a lovely smile and three buttons down his belly).

Delighted as I originally was about how neat and well-shaped my slabs were, my finished house, I freely admit, is ugly as hell. But I had such great fun making it (breakages and all) that I don’t mind at all. And once Lex had wrapped it all up in cellophane tied with ribbons, even mine looked a little more glamorous!

During the decorating, we were treated to mulled wine sorbets and later, a truly marvellous home-made Christmas pudding with nutmeg custard. The flames when it was doused in rum and set alight burned tall, fierce and long! And it was really delicious.

As well as my house I made a gingerbread man and a gingerbread woman.

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Does this look wrong to you too?

Unhappy with the shapes of the cookie cutters I had been able to find in the shops (all of which seem to have amputated legs) I searched for some images I liked online, adapted them to create my own paper templates and carefully cut mine out by hand. Yes, it took me a while!

I decorated them very simply and quickly, after finishing my house. I think they came out rather better!

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I had such a lot of fun (and was really inspired by some of the more elegantly decorated houses that some of the other participants created) that I’m determined to try again, perhaps scaling down the size and coming up with a design in advance.

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The Gingerbread Supper Club menu

Click here to see Lex’ recipe, templates and guidelines to create your own gingerbread house.

Thanks, Lex and Johanna, for a really fun afternoon and delicious meal. You are both wonderful hosts!

 

Do you know Meemalee’s Kitchen? If not, why not? It’s one of the most entertaining food blogs I read. Go and subscribe immediately! It’s written by a dear friend of mine who describes herself as a “food fraggle” and is currently writing a Burmese cookbook.

Recently she did a Burmese Pop Up Restaurant at Mat FollasThe Wild Garlic in Beaminster, Dorset.

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Pete and I went to show our support. And also because I’m a greedy cow and fancied some of her delicious Burmese cooking.

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Meems in the kitchen

Pete and I shared a table with Mattmoo, his wife Jacqui, Nick and his Mrs Emma. Starters and dessert were served individually. Mains were served family style.

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The menu

I completely forgot to take pictures of the slightly sweet and juicy christophene fritters (also known as cheyote), the deliciously crunchy matpe bean fritters (also known as urad or black gram dal) and the wonderfully smoky charred tomato salsa.

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A photo of the matpe bean fritters from Mimi’s trial run night

We didn’t see much of Meems as she was hard at work in the kitchen, preparing the food for a full restaurant of hungry and eager diners. The atmosphere was buzzing with lots of loud chatter and laughter and many positive comments and exclamations about the food.

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Meems peeking out from the kitchen

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Wood-ear mushroom and bean-thread vermicelli soup

Next came the soup, prettily presented with it’s quail egg garnish and with a kick of heat to the back of the throat. The textures of the unfamiliar mushrooms and vermicelli noodles made this a very interesting dish.

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Green bean salad, century egg salad and fish ball salad

From left to right on the plate were green bean salad, century egg salad and fish ball salad. The green beans were mixed with a crunchy peanut sauce. The century egg was dark green and sulphurous but balanced by sweet tomato, onions, herbs and a Burmese dressing. The fish balls were combined with noodles, leaves and crunchy fried curls. Again, lots of new and unfamiliar flavour and texture combinations.

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Nick, Jacqui and Matt; cinnamon chicken curry

Mains of cinnamon chicken, mogok pork curry and tomato and coriander prawns were served family style along with a simple side dish of straw and oyster mushrooms with baby spinach, a Burmese coleslaw of shallots, onions and cabbage and a shrimp relish. And rice, onto which Mat’s team popped a flower and sprinkled a few micro herbs, the only sign of Mat’s signature styling during the evening.

The cinnamon chicken was my favourite. Beautifully tender with deft and subtle spicing, it’s aromatic flavours reminded me strongly of a cinnamon chicken curry my mum cooks which has influences from either Persia or Afghanistan.

Everything was very well received, not just by our table but by the entire restaurant. We could see people digging in all around us, though the sittings were staggered to make it a little easier for the kitchen team to cope.

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Coconut sorbet, tapioca milk and brioche

We finished with a dessert of coconut sorbet, tapioca milk and brioche which was another unfamiliar combination of textures and tastes. I rather liked it and was particularly intrigued by the way the sweetness of the coconut sorbet brought out the sourness of the brioche rather than the sweetness I normally associate with it.

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Well-deserved applause; meeting her fans

After the meal, Mat brought Meems out to introduce her to the diners and she made a short speech before thunderous applause. The shy, exhausted but delighted Chef Meems then met and greeted some of the first (but hopefully not the last) people to put down their cash for her cooking.

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Left to right: Emma, Nick, Jacqui (obscured), Matt, Meems, Kavey, Pete

We had an absolutely wonderful evening and it’s clear that the other diners felt exactly the same.

Well done, Meems – a fantastic achievement and the first of many. I can’t wait for your next pop up, not to mention your Burmese cookery book in which I hope you will share the recipes above.

 

I’ve written before about how uplifting it is to meet fellow food bloggers. Forging friendships with those who share your passions is fun! Luiz, The London Foodie, is one such blogger with whom I felt a connection straight away and I have quickly come to cherish our friendship.

So it was with great excitement (and some trepidation) that I attended one of his London Cooking Club evenings, in the gorgeous home he shares with his partner, “Dr G”.

The premise of the London Cooking Club is simple: a small group of friends and readers of Luiz’ blog meet to “eat, drink and talk”. Each month, Luiz selects a cookery book from which each guest will make a dish for a themed dinner party. Everyone brings their ingredients, pre-prepped as much as possible, and finishes the cooking and assembly in Luiz kitchen, serving their dish to fellow guests.

So far Luiz has hosted club evenings based on recipes from New Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij, Kano’s Syrian Foodie in London blog, Pauline and Luke Nguyen’s books Secrets of the Red Lantern and The Songs of Sapa and Yotam Ottolenghi’s orginal book and more recent Plenty.

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The night’s menu

Having attending a class at Reiko Hashimoto-Lambert’s Hashi cookery school, organised by Luiz, I loved the idea of a night based on Reiko’s Japanese recipes.

I asked Luiz to assign me Reiko’s gorgeous beef tataki dish (the recipe for which you can find at the bottom of my review of the course I attended). But I was nervous about cooking it, not only in front of Luiz, who has attended several of Reiko’s courses and mastered many of her dishes but also in front of Reiko herself, who Luiz invited as guest of honour for the evening.

I should possibly have been more worried about how on earth I was possibly going to do justice to all the dishes presented that evening – I was full to bursting point only half way through!

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Spicy Miso Soup with Prawn and Chicken Quenelle

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Salmon Chirashi

All the dishes preceding mine were fantastic and excellently executed.

Suddenly it was my turn.

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My Beef Tataki with Creamy Sesame Sauce

Although I’d watched Reiko make the beef tataki from scratch, I realised I had absolutely no memory of how long the beef needed to cook. So I was extremely grateful to Reiko for so kindly helping me cook my beef and also checking the taste of my creamy sesame sauce. Thank you to Rachel and Luiz for their help finishing my plates.

Whilst mine wasn’t as elegantly plated as Reiko’s original it tasted great and went down really well. Phew!

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Sea bream and rice (though I think Debs may have used a different dish in the end)
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Buta Kakuni – Slow Cooked Pork Belly Stew

Not only did I enjoy an evening of eating, drinking and chatting – just as Luiz had intended – but also made more foodie friends, adding to my ever expanding network of people with whom I can enjoy great food in London!

Luiz, thank you (and Dr G) for such a lovely evening!

 

Just in case you’d forgotten (as though I’d let you!), back in March I was the proud (and extremely surprised) winner of the first Food Debate, shouting out for cheese. Although there was no prize proffered beforehand, when I stepped down from the stage, organiser James came over to tell me that there was a prize, if I wanted it, of two places at his newly launched supper club, The Secret Larder.

If I wanted it? IF I WANTED IT? I was absolutely thrilled to be awarded such a generous gift. Not only had I been able to participate in a worthwhile fundraiser, not only had I experienced the adrenalin rush (and fear) of debate, not only had I won but now I had a great evening to look forward to! Result!

The first few dates of the supper club were already fully booked so I put my name down for mid-May and waited, (impatiently) for the date to roll around. My friend Jen of Chocolate Ecstasy Tours joined me for the evening and we made our way to a top floor flat in a converted old school building somewhere in North London.

James shares the flat with his very lovely sister Mary and they run the supper club together, along with service and washing up help from friends.

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It’s a gorgeous flat. A huge open-plan living area with high ceilings, vast windows, a modern kitchen along one wall and plenty of space and light. A stunning room and one that’s giving me house envy, big time. I love the warm and quirky decorating style too with an eclectic mix of furniture, paintings, pot plants and fairy lights.

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Jen and her moscow mule chatting to James

The Secret Larder has a BYOB policy (no corkage but a glass for the hosts wouldn’t go amiss) so first things first, various bottles were squeezed into the fridge or popped onto a side table. Warm welcomes out of the way, we were surprised with a tall glass of vodka, ginger beer and fresh lime. This divine concoction is apparently known as a moscow mule. Why have I never come across this before? With my sweet tooth and dislike for beer and wine, this is right up my street!

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James working on the crackling

As the rest of the guests arrived, we mingled in the seating area (popping over to peer at James toiling away in the kitchen now and then). One of the joys of attending supper clubs is the opportunity to meet fellow guests and there were some fascinating people including a professional photographer who I wished I’d had more time to chat to.

To my delight, another blogger friend, Louis was also attending and better still, James had seated him with Jen and I for the evening. The only downside was that the three of us were at a tiny table of our own. Whilst I had a blast chatting to Jen and Louis I would really have liked us to be on one of the two large tables, to enjoy the full social side of the supper club scene.

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James making the ox tongue fritters

Once most of the guests had arrived (minus the two no-shows, James’ first such cads) we were shown to our seats where pre-starters of ox tongue fritters with horseradish were served. Also on the table were radishes and some fresh butter to go with the home-made soda bread served shortly afterwards.

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ox tongue fritters with horseradish

The ox-tongue fritters were decent, though much better when sprinkled generously with the sea salt provided on each table. Some guests seemed more willing to eat them before being told what they were, but overall, they went down well.

With the soda bead came the first great entertainment of the evening. Beautifully presented in pretty serving dishes lined with thick napkins, James held the bread dish over the table for us to help ourselves. As we were chatting about the ox tongue fritters (as you do) we suddenly noticed the napkin had caught fire from the candle below. The wide-eyed, panicked wail for big sister, Mary, who subsequently averted disaster, transformed our unflappable and usually debonair host into helpless little brother. I was laughing far too hard to capture any of this on camera!

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chilled
cucumber soup with salmon tartare and cucumber pickle

The starter was my favourite course of the night – the chilled cucumber soup with salmon tartare and cucumber pickle was stunningly well balanced refreshing cold soup, fresh, oily, delicate salmon and wonderfully sweet, light cucumber pickle. It took will power not to race around the room stealing everyone else’s portions of this lovely dish.

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Jen and Louis

By this time, the room was buzzing, everyone’s bottles were flowing, faces were smiling… James, Mary and Hero (tonight’s helper) brought out generously piled plates of roast pork belly with Jersey royals, savoy cabbage and cider vinegar. With crackling, I cannot forget that crackling! My pork was actually dry and a little tough, but I could see that I happened to receive an edge bit – the meat on my companions’ plates was perfectly moist and fall-apart tender. The vibe was relaxed enough that I knew I could have asked for a swap but I was already so full (and aware that dessert was still to come) that I was happy enough with the very lovely potatoes and cabbage, a couple of mouthfuls of the pork and that delicious crackling (extras of which were brought around shortly after the mains were served). For me, a fair rather than amazing course.

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the buzz; roast pork belly with Jersey royals, savoy cabbage and cider vinegar

During the breaks between courses, it was nice to look around at the lovely arty knick-knacks including a sweet little display of random keep-sakes on a shelf in the bathroom. The little typed message is by Mary, but never made it to the intended recipient, though I forgot to ask whether the teacup did!

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arty knick-knacks

The team were still hard at work in the kitchen and James put the finishing touches to his lemon polenta cake. It was every bit as delicious as it looked, the polenta (and the talents of the cook) locked in lots of moisture and the citrus kick was delightful.

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worker bees; lemon polenta cake

Already full to what I thought was capacity before the lemon cake, I somehow managed to squeeze it in. At which point James mentioned petits fours. My reply that I was so full I’d really like to lie myself flat on the floor groaning resulted in a comment from James that I was welcome to lie down on his bed instead. The millisecond of silence followed by hysterical (and somewhat drunken) guffaws from all three at our table resulted in James’ second (and much more extreme) panic-stricken look of the evening as the poor young lad realised it might sound rather too much like a proposition. Many flustered protestations followed, which only made the giggling worse. Don’t worry James, I’m happy to remain firmly in cyber aunt territory and have no designs on your boudoir!

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petits fours

To round the evening off we were offered tea or coffee (served to the table in cafetières) and the beautiful petits fours. The amaretti biscuits dipped in chocolate were my favourite, though the crystallised ginger cubes and physallis fruits similarly treated were also lovely. And wow, those home-made truffles definitely stole Jen’s chocolate-loving heart.

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James showing off his chocolate-dipping talents

The meal over, some of us moved back across to the seating area to chat amongst ourselves, and with our lovely hosts. Sadly, it was a school night, so it wasn’t long before the majority made moves homewards, though James and Mary were in no rush to chivvy anyone out.

All in all, a lovely evening and even more so being an unexpected and wonderful prize. More than worth the £25 donation James and Mary suggest – I can readily understand why some guests leave more. New dates book up very quickly once announced, so if you want to visit, keep an eye on the website or ask James to add you to the supper club’s mailing list.

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