Well that’s another successful night at the secret supper club over, a success that was all the greater considering all the events that sought to hinder us over the previous week.
To be honest the weekend hadn’t started well and we weren’t experiencing the same high spirits as we had at our previous supper club evenings. There were several reasons for this. To begin with I hadn’t being feeling great all week. I was tired, run down, busy and a wee bit stressed out, not at all my usual energetic bouncy self. This was amply demonstrated when I fell asleep at 8.30 on Friday night (and did not wake again until 6am Saturday morning). The other half had tried to rouse me as I’d requested ( I only meant to have a quick power sleep) but he said I’d mumbled almost incoherently that he should leave me alone (yes, I was even polite in my sleep). Frankly, the way I was feeling I would be lucky to stay awake for the supper club.
In addition to this the weather took a turn for the worse. The bright warm and sunny Welsh autumn had almost overnight turned to winter with thunderous black skies, piercingly cold wind and lashing sideways rain that soaked you the minute you stepped outside the front door. It was enough to make me want to go into hibernation for next 4 months.
Cancellations, jaded assistants and my lethargy turned Saturday morning into a shambles. The other half did a round trip of 120 miles before 12 O’clock, picking up the things that I’d forgotten on the Friday (so much for reducing food miles!!). He returned exhausted, in pain with a bad back and in a less than joyful mood. He also returned with a similarly exhausted teen that had just completed 2 netball matches at school that morning. She simply wanted to collapse in a heap and be surly for the rest of the day while watching shit music TV. She certainly didn’t want to work for the evening.
Prior to their arrival back home, the cat had thrown up on the carpet, the shelf in the utility room had collapsed hurtling a basket of about 20 pickling jars across the kitchen, where they had all simultaneously smashed with a crescendo of shattering glass….the cats decided to investigate….
….so while I tried to prevent the cats from getting glass in their feet, I thought about giving it all up and cancelling. But of course I’m very glad I didn’t…. Ces choses sont envoyées pour nous juger (best French I can muster)
Once the troops returned, we’d all calmed down and relaxed and consumed a lovely lunch of cheeses, bread, salad and tomato and pesto tart, followed by more tea and Paracetamol all round, we all perked up a little; enough to get back to work at least.
The other half cleaned the minging house, hoovered, set out the tables and tried to rally the droopy teen that floated about looking traumatized by even the slightest mention of work. This latter job was only partially accomplished.
Miraculously, by 5pm we were reasonably on top of it all. Tables set, kids scrubbed, cats hoovered, fire set, the only drama to unfold was that the teens hair wouldn’t straighten properly! By the time the first guests arrived at 7.15 we were all suitably composed (although the waitress was still running around in her knickers at 7.10).
Once the Blackcurrant Pompiers started flowing and the Tapenade canapés arrived, all was right with the world. By 7.40 all of our guests had arrived and I was straight into cooking the mussels, which had been scrubbed and kept in icy water by the other half (who never wants to see another mussel as long as he lives. He’d spent half the morning waiting for them to be packaged and the afternoon cleaning them).
After this everything proceeded like clockwork. Whether it was autopilot (obviously we’d learnt a lot from our first couple of evenings) or the fact that we were entertaining a smaller number of diners, it was a lovely relaxed evening.
The Boeuf Bourguinion was cooked to perfection, made with Welsh Black Beef from Willams the butcher’s in Bangor and served with carrots and baby potatos. We even had enough time to feed ourselves (the wee one demanding exactly eight mussels followed by the beef and then Tarte Tatin, while the teen filled up on Tapenade, bread and Chantilly cream…maybe we can actually get her to eat some proper food next time). However, as you can see I was still rubbish at remembering to take pictures.
My crowning glory (even if I say so myself) was the Tarte Tatin. I have made it plenty of times before, usually with shop bought puff pastry. But this time I followed the advice of Nigella and made it with home-made, Danish pastry made earlier that morning with the help of the little un. I left it to rest in the fridge for the day while I had my minor nervous breakdown and returned to it later when more composed (and when I needed to make the tarte).
I made the tarte in a large pan borrowed from my mate (thanks Molly…I couldn’t afford the £22 for a large tarte tatin tin). It was a nervous moment turning out the tatin, I wasn’t sure if it would work properly, my heart was in my mouth as I flipped the pan over. I removed it to reveal the most perfect tatin I had ever made, tender golden, caramel apples, sitting in perfect unbroken mounds. My smile spread from ear to ear (simple pleasures!!). Served with a good dollop of whipped cream, lightly sweetened (with a couple of dessert spoons of icing sugar) and flavoured with some good quality vanilla it was so well received, our twelve-year-old diner asked for seconds!
I think everyone was full to the brim by the time cheese and biscuits and coffee was served, but a few bravely gave the fantastic goats cheese Camembert and smoked Brie a try. The Camembert was mild enough to win over even those who don’t usually like goat’s cheese and the mildness of the Brie meant that the smoking process was not too overpowering. Unfortunately the home-made oat cakes were a little too dry and crumbly, but the two seed crackers were a success like last time.
All in all we had a very good night. The smaller numbers gave us more opportunity to socialise and have a chat with our diners. Fat Steve as usual got lots of attention, particularly from our 12-year-old diner, who I think would have smuggled him home with her given the chance. The little un disappeared upstairs to watch TV, bored with the occasion because he wasn’t allowed to ‘waitress’ the tables while the teen slowly flaked out once the coffee was served.
We finished the night tired, happy and satisfied that our diners had been well fed and hopefully entertained (although note to self: keep the other half away from the stereo…sorry anyone who’s not keen on Leftfield)
Looking forward to the 28th (extra added date…and bookings arriving already)