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‘forage in the pantry’ Summer Supper Club

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fter a successful first supper club earlier in the year, the excitement, delight and adrenaline of the event left me hungry to plan and host another! And with that, 3 apprehensive months later my summer edition arrived with a spice packed menu to tempt my next set of 30 greedy foodies.  And what a sunny and  special one this continued to be. Complete with the tuneful soothing and mesmerising sounds of my beautiful singer Doll Duncan…

For this summery occasion the menu was themed around spice from around the world in an original and eclectic mix of flavours and dishes to reflect my style. The sun was beaming as guests arrived to be welcomed with a crisp glass of sparkling Nyetimber to ease us all in to what I hoped to be an evening not to be missed. I began the menu with a fresh colourful starter of warm feta, pea, mint and dill fritters topped with a quenelle of beetroot and walnut humus. Served alongside this, some warm crusty bread and my homemade smoked salt and fennel butter! And who’d have thought, after all the flavours and tastes the evening offered I had more comments and astonished delight at my flavoured butter! On par with my truffles for simplicity, flavoured butter truly is an amazingly simple and easy addition to create which adds a brilliant twist to a meal (recipe to follow). With the taste buds awoken, I followed the starter with a generous oozy and velveting spoonful of my creamy spiced take on a lentil dahl (I did’t hold back on chilli, I’m told….). My ‘hug in a bowl’ dahl was then topped with a curry roasted cauliflower salad flecked with crisp spring onions, chopped mint and coriander. This miniature mountain of flavour was finally topped with a juicy and lovingly warm shredded handful of duck coated in a fresh zesty lime dressing…..

Jess - Dahl and Cauliflower duck

Jess - Butter

Fennel and Smoked Salt Butter

  • 250g unsalted butter (Softened)
  • 1 heaped tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp smoked salt
  1. Dry toast the fennel seeds in a pan until fragrant. Leave to cool before grinding in a pestle and mortar.
  2. Tip into a bowl and then grind the salt flakes to a fine powder too.
  3. Add about 1 tsp each of the ground fennel seed and the salt to the butter and stir well to combine evenly throughout. Add a little more fennel or salt dependant on taste.
  4. Spoon the butter onto a piece of cling film in an oblong shape. Roll into a cylinder and tie up the end tightly like a cracker. Place in the fridge to harden before slicing into rounds.

With satisfied tummies, my lovely diners were relieved momentarily from their eating duties digest and embrace the gorgeous and charming sounds of my dear talented friend Doll Duncan who took to the piano like Beyonce to the stage. With a mix of unique covers (including a fantastic version of Billie Jean) and her own thoughtfully written lyrics she captured the room, and all thoughts of food, stomachs and wine were banished as she distracted our senses.

A short moment of sadness followed as she signed off with her last song but souls were comforted with the arrival of dessert! A very English and seasonal affair. A stick sweet ginger and treacle tart topped with a (ironical festively) spiced apple puree and a spoonful of my homemade rhubarb crumble ice cream. Happy diners.

As the evening darkened and many a late night punter strolled past the open windows curiously wondering what they had missed out on, my velvety homemade dark chocolate truffles teased the room only to be accompanied by coffee, teas and late night tipples from Market Porter’s fantastic range. We drank, talked and relaxed into the wee hours…

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Hosted once again at the charming Porter at Embassy Gardens, nothing sums up the evening better than the video snapshot above, created and shot by the talented Keith Hammond.

 

 

My first Supper Club…

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or anyone who knows me they’d have been aware of my longstanding but parked dream of launching my first supper club on behalf of ‘forage in the pantry’. A live blog if you will. During university I very nearly undertook the challenge but the devils of revision, a busy lab schedule and an unhealthy bank account were not the ideal ingredients for a successful supper club. So only around 4 years later I have finally accomplished one of my many foodie ambitions that has stood tall and proud on my new year resolution list for some time now.

When the venue essentially found me it was Stefan at ‘Porter at Embassy Gardens’ who’s niche, original and cosy cafe-come-restaurant charmed me on arrival within moments of stepping over the threshold. The chequered floor, the cured hanging meats, the piano or simply the smell of freshly ground coffee it wasn’t a case of shall I do my supper club here, it was when!

With Moroccan and middle Eastern cuisine having a heavy place in my culinary heart my menu was created. Tickets sold out in two exciting days so it wasn’t long before the night arrived and 30 hungry guests graced Battersea for an evening of spice, flavour and charm. And what a night it was…..

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A quick moment before the first of my guests arrived to capture the dream team girls who helped make the night what it was and for who I cannot thank enough!

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ictures say a thousand words. But nothing can quite capture how truly special this night was for me personally but for the amazing atmosphere that my fantastic foodie guests created. Excitement, hunger, intrigue and pride. The drinks were flowing, the smells of Morocco filled the room and the gentle candles silently calmed our moods and transported us far from the busy lives of London.

This evening was truly one of those moments in my life I will remember forever. I can certainly recall a handful of memories that are embedded on my metal pin bin as being so significantly memorable. Degree results, graduation, holidays and job offers. The moments that you can draw on at any low point to bring a smile to your face. And this is now one of them.

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Moroccan spiced lamb leg with Ras el Hanout and chilli, butterflied and roasted, carved and served….

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…a top a creamy lime and cardamon yoghurt and green herb bulghar wheat salad, studded with toasted almonds, juicy raisins and pomegranate seed gems…

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Followed by my favourite blackcurrant and almond tart with homemade coffee and cinnamon ice cream, and a girly scattering of rose petals.

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And if I hadn’t been smiling enough, it was the charming and simply magical tones of my dear friend singer songwriter Doll Duncan who performed what can only be described as my favourite cover of my favourite song of all time that topped off this event. What a special evening and heres to the next! There will be another, so watch this space for your tickets as you won’t want to miss it trust me!

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All photography and video courtesy of my good friend Keith Hammond at http://www.gigshooters.com

My pals at Green & Blcks have just launched two new exciting flavours- lemon and orange! As I was packing for tomorrows warm Grecian holiday this morning, this welcome package arrived on my doorstep! Although a week away in sunny Greece is nothing to complain about, I’m not sure how I will manage waiting a week before getting back into the comfort of my kitchen to experiment with these new wonders! A week away from the blog I’m afraid but I’ll make up for it…promise! Sunbathing can be very productive when it comes to recipe inspiration. Plus, I’m not sure how well these would cope in the Grecian heat…!

ITV’s ‘Food Glorious Food’- surely any publicity is good publicity…..?

So I was a contestant on a new ITV cookery show called ‘Food Glorious Food’ which will be airing on Wednesday 27th February…… It was ‘searching’, rather broadly, for a particular recipe at the heart of British public’s culinary repertoires. The winner gets £20,000 and their gastronomic creation on the proud shelves of Marks & Spencer. So I thought, I’m British, I can cook….why not give it a go…..? My dish was a ‘Slow roasted shredded Pork Cassoulet’ and will be hitting the ‘forage in the pantry’ recipe archive soon.

But for now, I will be a comical and cringe-worthy addition to your Wednesday night TV viewing starting in the South West regional heats in Devon so keep your eyes pealed. It will be horribly embarrassing and painfully awful but you know what they say…….any publicity is good publicity! They do say that right…….RIGHT!!?

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My favourite foodie Christmas gift….

Naturally this year I received a range of cooking related presents for Christmas, from cookbooks to knives to a, what feels like, 20 tonne granite pestle and mortar that was ‘wrapped’ and tagged innocently with ‘Dear Jessie…..for when you get cross….’ These were all much appreciated and loved, but by far my favourite gift was from my best friend and dining partner in crime. With a creative flare she casually knocked out this little beauty……….. (For more of her amazing work, head to KV Studios)

Its getting a little sad that the highlight of my Sunday evening is a adrenaline filled dash to my local ‘Little Waitrose’ on the triangle in Clifton where if you get in there about 10 minutes before closing you can usually bag yourself some bargains! With a whole grate of asparagus (I hate to admit, imported from Peru) I had to take a load home for dinner to save the unnecessary wastage. So for all you Bristol students out there who think you can’t eat well on a budget, get yourself to Waitrose at 5.50pm on a Sunday!

The secret’s out Nigella…..

I am proud to announce I helped on location for the shoot for this stunning cover! Whilst I wish I had been the make-up artist or stylist for the day, I did however help craft the spaghetti curtain…..I never thought I’d say that! In Nigella’s foxy, devilish and enticing eyes, you can probably (dream on) just make out the reflection of my non-curvaceous, blonde, oxymoron-self, watching with admiration in the background as the stereotyped photographer snaps away at her girlish poses. As she manipulated the locks of fresh spaghetti, mastered uneasily by myself and food stylist in the staggeringly warm studio, I couldn’t help but smile at my luck, and wonder whether Nigella would ever read my blog……..

To fill you in, over the summer I undertook the most amazing, inspiring and wonderful 3 week internship at ‘delicious’ food magazine. Working on the November and December issues I was indulged in the world that is food journalism and styling and after a long month of difficultly refraining (and rather terribly I might add) from spilling the Italian beans about this domestic goddess November cover, it has finally graced our supermarket shelves and the secret is out! It was a brilliant internship and a wonderful day and now I have the glossy, printed and eye catching reminder to pin on my wall! So what are you waiting for………..buy it!

Homemade Puff Pastry

 

Today I attempted my first ever homemade puff pastry. It was totally unnecessary and received eye rolling, sighing and characteristic head shaking from my ‘non-foodie’ father who, ironically, would be reaping the benefits later that evening, in the form of Salmon en croute. I’ve always looked upon puff pastry as a superfluous endeavour when the supermarkets provide such satisfactory pre-made effort, however, I had some time today, I love cooking and, hey, I thought I’d add it to my repertoire.

Findings. So either I had put the tricky task of making this on a golden plated throne of difficulty or it is actually much easier than people make out, but I must admit, it took much less time than I’d thought, it was simple to create and produced puffed, laminated layers of buttery pastry! So for anyone who has never made it and wants to sample the proper stuff, then give this one a go……it was the first recipe I used, and appeared to work well! Hopefully it wasn’t beginners luck…..(Makes about 600g block)

  • 245g plain flour
  • 40g chilled cubed butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 215g unsalted butter block
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 130ml cold water
  1. Begin by mixing the flour, salt and 40g of cubed butter in a large bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until you form a breadcrumb-like mixture.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the water and lemon juice and mix with a fork until you have a ball of dough. Using your hands, knead lightly until you form a smooth dough. For into a ball and then using a knife, score a deep cross in the top to allow the dough to stretch and relax as it rests. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place you 215g block of butter between a folded sheet of parchment. Using a rolling pin, bash heavily to flatten the block and soften it, whilst maintaining it in a cold state, to about 1 cm thick, in a square. Return to the fridge.
  4. After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge. Take the corner of each of the crosses you scored and pull them out and roll them using a rolling pin, outwards so they flatten leaving a thicker mound of dough in the middle to accommodate the bulk of the butter that will be added.
  5. Making sure it is slightly smaller than your flat dough, place the chilled sheet of butter in the centre and fold in the corners of the dough to cover it completely.
  6. Flour the work surface well to prevent it sticking and roll the dough, totally encased in butter, into a long rectangle, about 40cm long and 18cm wide. You are now ready for your first folding.
  7. With the short side facing you, bring the top 3rd of pastry down about 2/3rds of the way and the bottom 3rd up to cover it like a book [as seen above]. Then rotate clockwise 90°.
  8. Repeat this rolling to 40cm and folding again. Then wrap in cling film and quickly chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  9. Bring the dough out and place it in front of you as if it has just been folded. Rotate 90 and repeat steps 7 and 8 so that it has been rolled and folded twice more. Wrap and chill again for 30 minutes.
  10. Finally, repeat this process once more, so that in total it is rolled and folded 6 times. At this stage the dough can be shaped as desired and chilled again for 30 minutes before baking. Or it can be left until needed/frozen.
  11. It is usually baked, brush with beaten egg, (direct from its chilled state to prevent the butter melting) at about 200-220°C for 20 minutes as a rough approximation depending what you are doing with it!

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‘Cheese- milk’s leap towards immortality’ – Clifton Fadiman

A perfect summer party….

So…..this weekend I helped cater a beautiful, stylish and spirited birthday party on a gorgeous English summer day with a catwalk of the most beautiful guests! With party styling under the professional and wise control of ‘Inspired Party Designs’ (www.inspiredpartydesign.com) a stunning company run by my mother and friends and food from myself and team, it was a memorable day which undoubtedly deserves this extended post…

A feast of delicious food; cumin and chilli roasted carrots, fig, goats cheese and hazelnut salad, pea, asparagus, mint and feta salad, seasonal tomatoes with basil and edible flowers, boiled new potatoes with oozing butter and a stunning slow roasted rolled shoulder of lamb with a pomegranate and orange dressing. It was devine!

(Fig hazelnut, goats cheese and balsamic salad on watercress and rocket)

And of course the practiced dessert which was just as good the second time round. Coconut and lime pannacotta, a coconut shortbread and lime melt and a mini mango ice lolly on sugar, salt and citrus crumbs.

And of course……no party is complete without cake……..

And of course the charismatic Birthday girl in her vintage glam attire who made this day so delightful, Happy 30th (‘Np’ I hear you scream…..I know you wouldn’t believe it) Birthday Beth Daniel!!!