Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Pop Up Supper Club

Pop-up Supper Club - Take #1

The idea of a pop-up supper club in the lounge had been floating around the Keston Kitchen since the end of summer 2010. The first one finally took place on March 12th. The evening was a brilliant success and a great time was had by all.

Behind the scenes

When we realised we were serious about popping-up in the lounge, the preparation started with finding a date that we could all do. Not as easy as it sounds when you have four busy girls, and Lindsay on board! March was decided, so then came the task of the menu. We worked to our own guidelines; a four course menu of seasonal dishes, with ingredients sourced as locally as possible. We all like a challenge, and March, being the most sparse month of the year when it comes to fruit and veg, certainly provided that.

The menu

The menu was decided; trout to start, some local pork in the middle, rhubarb and custard dessert, and something sweet to end. A lot of hours went into testing recipes, tasting ingredients, and collecting everything on the Friday before the big day. A big thank you to Jesse Dunford Wood, an amazing chef that we stumbled across at the Mall Tavern in Notting Hill. He kindly discussed our menu with us and offered to help us source the trout for the starter and smoke some of it on the roof of the pub! I can safely say the smoked trout was out of this world, with an incredible intense flavour that just made you want to have one more piece. Also, a big thank you to Kurt at Volcano Coffee Works, who I spent a couple of hours tasting coffee with and choosing the right blend for the end of the night. Finally, thanks to the bees of Nunhead who make really good honey, which we used in the mini merigue cupcakes with toasted hazelnuts and cream.

The blues versus the reds

On the day we spruced up the lounge, which has never looked so good. Rach sorted the tables so that we had a blue end and a red end. Very pretty and also pretty practical for those on waitressing duty. The red table became the rowdy table after about 5 minutes. They all hit it off and the chatter, laughter and drinking continued long into the night, with the blues occasionally trying to match the noise levels from the reds - a difficult undertaking. The food ended around midnight and we all got talking. I can only compare it to a brilliant dinner party with great guests. Suddenly it was 1am and then it was 3am when the last four guests left, as good friends, with numbers swapped and plans made.

Now, we're putting together our next menu and guest list for June 4th, take #2, ensuring the night will be as entertaining and delicious as the first... Book early if you fancy coming along.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Courses for Sauces

Last year I received a very exciting present, a mornings course at Leith's cookery school in West London. I enjoyed it immensely and was lucky enough to get to go on another one as my Christmas present! I went on the second course earlier this week, this time I opted for the sauces workshop as I thought that was an area of cooking that I needed to learn a lot more about. I hoped the course would provide me with a good grounding in making basic sauces and a better understanding of the different types that can be made.

I was not disappointed! The course was a full day and they really packed everything in. The day started with a 1 hour demonstration where we were explained to about making stock (I learnt something new in the first 5 minutes - that brown stock is made from bones that have already been cooked and white stocks from raw bones). The chef also talked about the key mother sauces (e.g. white sauce) and the daughter sauces that can be made from them (e.g. cheese or bechamel). He then demonstrated making a port sauce, a creamy sauce and hollandaise.

We were provided with booklets which contained the instructions on making all the sauces covered during the workshop and more. We were then let loose on the kitchens, there were 16 of us and 2 teachers.
One of the reasons you get through so much on the course is the team of people who are busy in the background doing your washing up and delivering the ingredients to your bench as you require them.
The first thing we turned our hand to was making a jus, we reduced white and red white, browned vegetables and chicken wings and put them into the wine along with some chicken stock. We then left our pans to gently bubble away for a few hours, skimming the fat off the surface regularly.
Meanwhile we made a Mornay sauce with Gruyere and Parmesan and then got started on our lunch - a chicken breast with a creamy tarragon sauce which was delicious.
After lunch we strained our jus and left it on the hob to reduce.
During the afternoon we made mayonnaise (which if you have patience is very easy to make but disturbingly, pretty much the only ingredients are egg yolk and veg oil), basil pesto and a creme anglaise (custard).

Overall I thought it was a great day and would definitely recommend it to other people. Although pricey you get to use wonderful ingredients and come away with the confidence to do it all again by yourself.

Back in the Keston kitchen i am very keen to try out some of my new skills (and the other ladies want to learn too)! I have made pesto before and tried my hand at white and cheese sauces before with moderate success but the stuff I learnt about stocks, jus and emulsions will be invaluable.

The creme anglaise was put to good use a couple of days later when our friends from round the corner (Ady's ladies) came for dinner. Of course we needed something to go with the creamy custard so I made an apple tart. If you want to have a go at creme anglaise yourself, instructions are below. The ingredients listed make a very light, runny sauce. If you want it thicker just add more yolks and use full fat milk or cream. For thick set custard the chef recommended 6 yolks and a pint of double cream!

Creme Anglaise

1/2 pint semi skimmed milk
1 vanilla pod or a few drops of vanilla essence
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp caster sugar (plus a bit more if you fancy)

Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod, mix the seeds on your chopping board with a sprinkling of sugar - this stops the seeds clumping together. If you opt for vanilla essence add it at the end.
Place the sugary seeds, empty pod and milk in a pan and bring slowly to the boil. If you fancied chocolate custard, add 30g dark chocolate at this stage.
Beat the egg yolks in a a bowl with 1 tbsp of caster sugar. When the milk has just started to bubble take it off the heat (remove the vanilla pod) and pour it, a little at a time into the bowl with the egg yolks. Adding slowly to start with will help prevent the eggs being cooked and scrambled by the hot milk.
Once mixed well, return it all to the pan and put it back on the hob. Stir continuously over a low heat for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. Do not let it boil. The key signs that it is thickening, are steam coming off the mixture, the bottom of the pan will begin to feel velvety and the mixture will coat the back of your spoon.
Immediately strain the sauce into a cool bowl, straining will remove any unwanted lumps off egg or pieces of vanilla pod and decanting from the pan straight away prevents it cooking further.
To finish add the vanilla essence (if you didn't use vanilla seeds) or you could try adding orange zest or alcohol (like calvados). I also added a bit more sugar.
Eat hot or cold, with fruit, apple pie or crumble or just on its own!

Rachael x