Vegetarians eating chicken hearts.. are you ‘Taking the Peas?!’… a night to remember at Leluu and Blyde’s

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The supper club fad has been around for a couple of years now and with our economy not showing any indication of improving I feel that more and more homes are being secretly turned into restaurants by night to support the popular demand to eat out at affordable prices.


But a supper club supper is about more than just an affordable meal, you’re seated in somebody’s living room-come dining room, at a table with interesting people to talk to, plenty of booze cos you take it yourself, and each dish is served with pride and a sense of affection. With absolute zilch sign of the commercial world we live in and mass produced chain restaurant food, you relate to your hosts and feel their energy and enthusiasm of wanting to please their guests.At least that was how I experienced my first supper club at Leluu & Blyde’s. My dinner partner Keeley and I were warmly greeted out of the typical British drizzle and invited into the delicious smelling house softly lit up by the ambiance of gentle music and warm candles. Once our coats and wine was looked after, Uyen (Leluu) made the effort of introducing all her guests to each other and whether this was the plan or not it naturally led the way of choosing like-minded people who you wanted to sit at a table with.

To enable conversation to flow more freely, we were given a tomato consommé with a twist, laced with vodka and basil it was both flavoursome and exciting.
This was nicely followed by ‘Sea Petal’ a delicious oyster, complimented with a delicate jelly of nettle, seaweed and sesame.

Uyen then showed hertrue Vietnamese colours with ‘Barking Parcels’ this delicious dog fish (although I believe it may have been a different type of fish) wontons, with ricotta, sage and a very tasty shrimp oil.

Next to follow was one of the table’s favourite ‘Taking the Peas’, a really fresh pea and pea shoot soup subtly seasoned with mint, a drizzle of a very nice olive oil and amazing crunchy white truffle croutons. It’s one of my pet hates when croutons go soggy…but these croutons were perfect and they never succumbed to the pressures of soup wetness.Next up we were able to enjoy the truffle infused ciabatta once again in the form of crostini. This was to accompany the beautifully flavoursome steak tartare. Varying cuts of meat were used to give wonderful contrasting textures, along with a gentle aromatic flavor of rosemary and the gooey yolk of a quails egg this was a superb course.

We were then served our ‘snow white risotto’ a very tasty, creamy and delicate risotto of fennel, squid and black autumn truffles, served with sweet onion dust.

‘Chickens have loved’ I have never eaten chicken hearts before and I was pleasantly surprised by these little squidgy nuggets of meat. Marinated in teriyaki, ginger and caramel they had a sweet and savoury flavour and were surprisingly popular with the vegetarians on our table!

Next to come in my mind was quite rightly the star of the evening, roasted quail infused with the delicate flavour of rose water, succulently cooked to perfection and served on a bed of julienne parsnips and a scattering of the vibrant jeweled pomegranate seeds. The humour of the miniature rose fastened to the derriere of the bird showed the playful lightheartedness of the evening, but the gentle scented flavour complimenting the soft delicate flesh of the bird took this dish to a level of sophistication.

I have to admit that I hadn’t remembered half of the courses that had been on the on-line list when Keeley and I had signed up for supper at Leluu & Blyde’s, and by the time we had received the quail I was on my way to feeling pretty full. So the next course which was a light and refreshing cucumber and fennel water was a breath of fresh air. Before the very tasty finale of clementine glazed pancakes with violet cream.What I loved about the supper club night with Leluu & B
lyde was the care and attention given to their diners, the beautiful mish mash of vintage china, and the respectful announcement of every dish, educating the diner of what was in front of them. Keeley and I were sat at a table with two very definite vegetarians or at least they were at the start of the evening, yet somehow through the course of the evening they emerged from the night, chicken heart chewing, quail bone gnawing, meat eaters, I think that sums up the excitement of the night and the quality of the food emerging from Leluu & Blyde’s kitchen!

We had a wicked evening, a fantastic introduction to the supper club world, and definitely not my last!

Salad of Crisp Pork Cheeks, from Arbutus

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I did say as soon as I get my hands on some pork cheeks I would make the delicious starter I had at Arbutus, and to my utter amazement (and I’m sure yours also) I was able to grab some off Morrison’s pork section in the supermarket, and at an astonishing £1.24 a pack.

To those of you that think pork cheek sounds a bit odd, they are delicious when cooked properly, with a beautiful soft texture and heaps of flavour. They need to bebraised or slowly cooked so that the meat just falls apart, otherwise they will be tough and chewy.

I thus set forth in my little London kitchen, and have conjured up a reliable recipe similar to the one served up in Arbutus  the other week.

Serves 2 as a starter, or light meal:

For the crispy cheeks:

300-400g pork cheeks
1 glass of red wine
500ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp juniper berries
1 clove garlic, peeled and bashed
2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp lard for frying

For the parsley puree:

Large bunch of parsley, stalks removed
Juice of half a lemon
100ml olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 tsp salt
½ clove garlic grated

For the Puy lentils:

100g Puy Lentils
200ml stock
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
100ml double cream
½ clove garlic grated

Handful of parsley to serve (optional)

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 160oC

First make the parsley puree by wizzing the parsley in a blender, before adding all the remaining parsley puree ingredients, blitz until smooth and set aside until required. (You can keep this for a week in a covered jar in the fridge, great with fish!)

Season the pork cheeks generously with salt and pepper, then on a high heat sear the cheeks in a frying pan for about a minute on each side so that they brown in colour, this adds flavour to the dish. Then remove the cheeks from the pan and place in an ovenproof casserole dish. Add the wine into the hot frying pan and swill this out onto the pork cheeks, along with the stock, bay leaf, juniper berries and garlic.

Place the casserole dish with lid on (or tinfoil if you don’t have one) in the preheated oven and cook for 2 hours, or until the pork is falling apart.

Remove the pork from the liquor (you’ll need this later) in the casserole dish and place in a large bowl, shred the pork using 2 forks. When it is all shredded form into patties, about 1 per cheek (so if you had 4 cheeks this will make 4 patties), compressing them as tight as you can.

If you have a ring mould this will make them neater and firmer, but they do firm up in the fridge. Keep them in the fridge for about 20 minutes, or until you are ready for them.

Make the Puy lentils by bringing to a simmer in the vegetable stock and garlic for 20 minutes, partly covered. If you are running out of liquid add some more, after 20 minutes remove the lid, turn up the heat and add 1 tbsp of sherry vinegar cooking for a few minutes until the liquid has just about evaporated. Stir the cream into the lentils, remove from the heat, cover and set aside until required.

Take the pork cheek patties out of the fridge, put the cornflower onto a separate plate. 1 by 1, using the liquor that the pork cheeks were cooked in, dunk the pork cheeks in the liquor before dusting with the corn flour, this will help them get a real crispy edge. Melt the lard in a frying pan on a medium high heat before frying the pork cheek patties for a few minutes on each side. Let them colour and crisp up on each side before turning.

Serve by placing the puy lentils on a plate with the parsley puree, then the pork patties on top, I served this for dinner with buttered french green beans.

Homemade Raspberry Jam

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Spreading shop bought jam over your toast will never be the same once you have made and tasted your own, fruitier, additive free, made with love, homemade version.

I have mentioned in previous posts that raspberry season is upon us, and raspberries appear to be taking over our lives here at Lamb Cottage. Which unfortunately means I am constantly having to eat them or cook with them, what a pitty.

Jam is something my mother always made… and I always ate, but I didn’t realise how easy and simple it is to make. You literally just boil fruit with a little bit of sugar…

Although it is best to follow a recipe so you know which fruits you can use for jam,  as the fruit needs to have a high level of pectin which will allow it to set.

Ingredients:

1kg fresh raspberries
2 whole star anise
2 vanilla pods, split in half lengthways
800g white sugar

Method:

First place the sugar in an oven proof dish and heat through on a medium temperature in the oven so that it is warm when added to the raspberries. (This ensures the temperature does not reduce too much when the sugar is added)

Next place the raspberries in a large pan and simmer for 5 minutes or so until the fruit is soft.

Then add in the sugar, stirring over a very low hear until the sugar has completely dissolved. Raise the heat, bring to a full rolling boil, then rapidly boil for around 5 minutes without stirring or until the setting point of 105C is reached.

Remove from the heat, skim off any excess scum, and leave for about 15 minutes so the fruit can settle.

Pour into sterilised jars, label and seal.


Gooey Raspberry and Almond Cake

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The raspberry season is well on its way, I picked 1 large mixing bowl full of the juicy bright red little berries yesterday so a bit of creative thinking is necessary to put their fate into a destiny they deserve, and this cake was so tasty and juicy with a layer of soft raspberries in the middle.

I made a fat, chunky one using a brownie baking tin, but this recipe works just as well if you spread the cake mixture out into a round traditional cake tin.

Ingredients

5 oz Ground almonds
5 oz Butter
5 oz Caster sugar
5 oz Self raising flour
2 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
9 oz Raspberries
2 tbsp flaked almonds

 

Method

Heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin in preparation.

Blitz almonds, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract in a food processor until well combined.

Spread half of the mixture into the cake tin, sprinkle raspberries on top, and submerge them into the cake mixture slightly then add the remaining mixture.

Scatter with flaked almonds and bake for 50 minutes until golden.

Whilst its cooling pop the kettle on, because it goes so deliciously with a nice cuppa!

Brilliantly Bright Beetroot Houmous, Hummus, Hummous, Humus… why so many names??!…

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…why, because it is a a transliteration of the arabic: حمّص‎  (ḥimmaṣ) for chickpeas, and apparently because it is a borrowed arabic word, the romanized spellings of the word in English can be inconsistent .

I love dips, mezze, tapas type nibbles to peck at whilst preparing dinner or to have a gossip over with a G & T

when the girls come over.  Served with some warm pitta breads to dunk in, this one always goes down a treat mainly cos it looks so brilliant, and tastes yummy with the earthy beetroot flavour.

And earthy this one was, as the beetroot was plucked straight out of the earth from our little vegetable patch. I boiled the beetroot with the skin on so that the colour didn’t bleed out into the water, this also keeps all of the nutrients inside the beetroot so you can benefit from the high amount of iron and vitamins that this root contains. I boiled it for around 30 minutes, until it was soft, then once cooked and cooled the skin was easy to remove.

Ingredients:

400g can chickpeas , rinsed and drained
1 garlic clove, crushed
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
4 tbsp Olive oil + a little more to drizzle on top
1 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
100g peeled and boiled beetroot
Pinch of black pepper
Handful of toasted pine nuts (optional)

Method:

Simply blitz all the ingredients bar the pine nuts in a food processor or using a hand blender, until smooth. If it appears too thick add a little more olive oil, (or water if you’re slightly conscious of your waistline!).

To serve simply spread into a dish, drizzle a little olive oil on top, sprinkle the toasted pine nuts, and dip away with warm pitta breads.

Thai Tom Yum Soup

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I had the beginnings of a sniffle last night, you know when its coming.  Its bloody summer as well, how can I possibly have a cold in summer?? but it made its first appearance, so I decided I would try and knock it on the head whilst I could.

For me, a spicy aromatic Thai soup does exactly this, let the chilli burn its way through your airways knocking dead all the evil cold germs on the way. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this, Tom Yum Soup is under study for its ability to not only boost the immune system, but also to fight cancer??! check out this link for more info: http://www.thaigrocer.com/tomyumbenefits.html

This soup is fresh, zesty, flavoursome and feels so good for you. I often cook it when I’m feeling particularly lazy because it is so easy. If you don’t have the veg ingredients it’s not essential you could pretty much put most vegetables in this broth and they would still taste good!

Serves 2

1 litre chicken stock
200ml water
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, chopped into 2.5cm lengths and slightly crushed
3 small red chillies, sliced
1 inch piece of galangal, peeled and sliced (if you cant find any use ginger)
4 lime leaves
1 tablespoon of nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
5 chestnut mushrooms, chopped into quarters
5 shitake mushrooms, chopped in half lengthways
a handful of sugarsnaps
12 raw tiger prawns, shelled

To serve:
1 tablespoon of coriander leaves
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

In a large pan bring to boil the chicken stock, water, garlic, lemongrass,  chillies, galangal, lime leaves, lime juice, sugar and  nam pla.  Taste the broth, it needs to be spicy, salty and a little sweet, if any of these seem out of proportion adjust with a little nam pla or sugar.

Then simply add the remaining ingredients and allow to cook for 5 minutes, or until the prawns are pink.

Serve into bowls with a sprinkling of coriander and sesame seeds on top.