Monthly Archives: February 2010

Now taking bookings for March

Our next evenings will be held on the 13th March and the 20th March….the former a lovely Mothers Day dinner…with Champagne and lots of yummy seasonal dishes…the latter will be a Roman feast (toga’s optional)

Also new cookery classes have been added to the ‘about’ page….to be scheduled for the second Wednesday and Saturday of every month (depending on bookings and numbers). Classes cost £30 a head (or £25 for a group of 4 or more) and include ingredients and 2 to 3 hours tuition (plus eating time to try your creations). Classes will begin on 17th April and then will be held 15th May..other dates will be added later…

email to reserve a space

Denise xx

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An afternoon of amorousness…..washed down with loads of wine and champers

I really must work on my organisation skills, its been slipping since Christmas and this was amply demonstrated by the fact that this supper club used less locally sourced produce than I would have liked. I even had to pay a visit to the dreaded Tesco.

I wanted to keep the menu light so that diners were not too full to take advantage of the effects of the aphrodisiacs. I also realised that an aphrodisiac menu consisted of lots of fresh ingredients of fruit and vegetable origin (there is no meat, dairy or wheat based foods on the aphrodisiac list. Good on the one hand as I had two vegetarians and a wheat and dairy intolerant diner, but not so good if I wanted to source my ingredients locally). Having got carried away with my aphrodisiac menu it dawned on me that actually a lot of those foods weren’t in season!! I’m sure in London there are plenty of local markets and small shops that stock cheap fruit and vegetables (things like Figs and raspberries) but in Wales we are somewhat limited to our local small holders (who do not tend to grow figs and if they do it is during that small window which we refer to as summer)…if all else fails we head to the supermarket.

The final menu went like this;

Cherry tomato and Basil Focaccia with good olive oil

Bethesda Bakers Cherry tomato Focaccia

My Basil Focaccia


Oysters Kilpatrick An Aussie speciality for anyone not sure about raw oysters: basically you make a cream and Worcester sauce dressing, which is shared between the oysters, then top with crispy bacon or pancetta chopped finely and browned breadcrumbs. They are then grilled for a few minutes to finish and lightly cook. Next time I will remember to ask the fish monger to open them for me….I struggled, so passed the job over to Sean who used so many expletives I had to send the little un out and managed to scream so much we thought he’d chopped his thumb off…he stabbed himself twice ‘right down to the bone’ he cried, as we appeared totally unsympathetic and told him he should wrap his hand in a cloth first!!

Strange piggy back oyster...basically two stuck together

Oysters prepared with Kilpatrick sauce waiting for the addition of crispy pancetta and breadcrumbs and a quick run under the grill to cook lightly

The finished oysters served with lemon and lime wedges

Carrot and Coriander soup (with a chilli and ginger kick): I slightly tweaked my usual Carrot and Coriander soup recipe just to slip in a couple of extra aphrodisiacs, by adding a couple of pinches of chilli powder and some grated fresh ginger. I surprised myself at how well it worked!

Carrot and Coriander soup (with chilli and ginger)

Roasted Fig and beet salad (marinated in honey and thyme). This was a recipe I found on www.hippygourmet.com/blog/ whilst carrying out a search for hot fig salads. I stuck pretty much to the original recipe but then added some pine nuts, mozzarella balls and Prosciutto just to make it a little more filling for the meat eaters in the house.  I  got the smallest beets I could find, tossed them in Olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper and wrapped them in foil parcels to keep in the steam. Once cooked they were peeled with the aid of a pair of marigolds and a clean tea towel and mixed with the halved figs. These were then tossed in a mixture of honey, thyme, salad and pepper and red wine vinegar. They were then returned to the oven for about 10 minutes whilst the rest of the salad was assembled. This consisted of mixed seasonal leaves,  some fresh herbs and salad dressing. Once the figs and beets were cooked they were shared between the plates and the mozzarella, pine nuts and Proscuitto were tossed over.

peeling beets

The cloth may never be the same again...but at least it saved me getting red hands

Assembling salads

The final salad

Chocolate truffle cake with raspberry coulis and Vanilla ice-cream This was a River Cafe recipe. A really rich, dark and bitter cake but really simple to make. Perfect served with the raspberry coulis and Vanilla ice-cream. I realised though that I could really do with an ice-cream maker, the finished ice-cream is just not the same made in the freezer.

Chocolate truffle cake with raspberry coulis and Vanilla ice-cream

Coffee and almond ratafia biscuits: I remember reading msmarmite lover who made these for her Patrick O’Brian night. She said these were the easiest biscuits to make. Well I admit my first attempt failed dismally, they ended up flat and stuck to the tray…and no I didn’t take a picture!! On the next attempt I modified the recipe which came from the Lobscouse and Spotted Dog recipe book, but which I found online here www.wwnorton.com/POB/spottedd/foods.htm#rat ) I added less egg white, used ground almonds and essence rather than trying to grind my own and also added a dessertspoonful of flour. They worked perfectly

almond ratafias

Coffee and ratafias

I’d managed to get 15 aphrodisiacs into the menu

1/ Basil

2/ Oysters

3/ Carrots

4/ Coriander (although this may be arguable as I have seen it noted as an anaphrodisiac in some places too)

5/ Chilli

6/ Ginger

7/ Figs

8/ Honey

9/ Pine nuts

10/ Chocolate

11/ Raspberries

12/ Vanilla

13/ Almonds

14/ Coffee

And finally, last but not least wine and Champagne. I think it was this last one the released the inhibitions and encouraged the amorousness. At one point I appeared to have lost two guests in the house (I checked the bedrooms) …but as it was my sister I let her off as she and her boyfriend had simply nipped to put on some more music….that was their excuse anyway.

I had planned to get my Oysters from Menai Oysters www.menaioysters.co.uk/default.aspx but unfortunately due to the cold winter weather the oysters were not ready. Instead they were sourced from the Llandudno smokery www.llandudnosmokery.co.uk/home.php?/Home where they also sell fresh fish. It was here that I also got the Prosciutto and Pancetta, both of which were excellent. Unfortunately none of the stuff was locally produced (the Oysters were, Jody informed me from Colchester!!).

Also, now that Pippa and Johns veg boxes had pretty much finished for the winter I was down a veg supplier. I was given the name of someone to try who was still producing and supplying but after a week of phoning every day I was unable to get in touch with him. With a day to go until supper club I had to bite the bullet and make a trip to Tesco. The only thing I did manage to source locally was my Cherry tomato Focaccia from the Bethesda Bakers www.bethesdabakers.com/english/home.html which was lovely.

Feeling like a total failure on the sourcing front I went into the weekend somewhat derailed. Then my sister and her boyfriend arrived and proceeded to derail me further by insisting I get drunk at every given opportunity. I resolutely abstained on Saturday night still nursing a fuzzy head from Friday and I feared it would all fall apart.

I’m not sure why I always turn myself into a total stress head three days before every supper club, I guess it’s because I carry all the instructions and procedures in my head and until I know it’s all on target I can’t relax. Once guests arrive and the food is being prepared I begin to work more calmly and start enjoying myself, which I definitely did on Sunday. We had a staff turnaround as well with Sophie (my seamstress and provider of tablecloths and napkins and good food lover) helping me in the kitchen and Sean and Ro waitressing.

Sophie replacing the missing teen waitress

a few amorous diners

Unfortunately Rosie had been overtaken by teenage surliness and was as has become the norm, not on best form. To be honest I think she’s bored with the whole thing already…apart from the prospect of earning some money. This time she even blew that with her sulky strop off to her bedroom to msn her mates with the suggestion that we text her if we need her. I informed our dinner guests that their waitress should be put on speed dial!!

As is usual for our supper club guests were a mix of people I knew and those that I didn’t. It was a much younger group than the Burns night troupe which made for quite a contrast. That is the thing that I love most about supper club; it’s never what I expect, I never know if I will actually know the guests coming and I can never tell how the supper will turn out (although as far as I’m concerned its always good). Guests on Sunday all loved the food (one very important part of the supper) and we all sat and chatted for ages. Our last guest left at 5pm to head back to Aberystwyth (a good two and a half hour drive) stating that the trip up had been well worth it….

the smoking area...where your waiter will hold the brolly for you...not very health and safety...but this was at the end of service!!

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Punjabi night….to be rescheduled

Unfortunately due to unforseen circumstances (and the large number of cancellations possibly due to it being half-term!) we will have to reschedule this supper….keep an eye on the blog for new dates

Denise x

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Still spaces for our Punjabi night next Saturday

With special guest cook Rani from Joginders supper club in London coming to cook up a Punjabi feast…..its not often you will get the opportunity to taste authentic Indian cuisine here in North Wales…so come along and make the most of it!!!

Denise xx

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Valentines Day…and a mention in Elle Decoration magazine

Just finished an awesome Valentines Day lunch!! Lovely company, loads of wine and Champagne drank….lots of amorous lovelies left with big smiles on their faces….perfect….write up will follow soon
….and we are listed as one of the top 5 underground
restaurants around in March’s Elle Decoration magazine, soooo exciting 🙂

Write up in the March issue of Elle Decoration

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Preparing for the day of love and romance….

Having conducted a little research on the subject and having tried one or two of these things at home (ahem)…I have discovered a surprisingly long list of foods purported to have aphrodisiac properties. But is it just a myth or do they really work?

The question lies in whether we believe the aphrodisiac foods we are eating are genuinely improving our sex drive and stirring up our hormones. Despite there being many articles, books, and guides about the human sex drive all offering suggestions and exercises, and often certain aphrodisiac foods to stimulate the libido, but really we don’t really know why they supposedly work ort if they really do!

It was the goddess Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who triggered the interest in love inducing foods when she rose from the sea on an oyster and then gave birth to Eros.  So, it is since the Roman and Greek times that the belief that aphrodisiac foods stimulate the sex drive and increase sexual performance has proliferated. During those periods, people were more concerned about fertility and sexual performance than love and passion itself, so a great amount of time was spent determining what aphrodisiac foods would help these two separate concerns.

Some foods obviously qualify as an aphrodisiac due to their phallic appearance (asparagus, figs, carrots, oysters) they are suggestive, and not a cause of physical sexual reaction. In fact, many believe that some aphrodisiac foods increase and stimulate sexual desire and performance by the suggestive nature of the food and the ritual surrounding the food and not the food itself. While others may work on the body to increase its receptivity to love and passion (chocolate, giving a natural high, coffee to stimulate, Basil to promote feelings of well-being)

The menu for Sunday lunch consists of 14 different aphrodisiac foods….

Oysters Kilpatrick (an Aussie speciality) and Champagne cocktail

Carrot and Coriander soup

Roasted fig and baby beet salad with honey…served with prosciutto, goats cheese mozzarella and blue cheese and home-made Basil Focaccia

White chocolate and vanilla and dark chocolate mousse with strawberry and raspberry Coulis

Coffee and hazlenut-pine nut cookies

I’m hoping the menu will promote an amorous afternoon…although I will be locking the bedroom doors….and I want (discrete) reports from diners about the rest of their afternoon and whether it ended up being as pleasant as their lunch 🙂

Denise x

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Laughter, tears, whisky and exploding Haggis

Burns night table setting

Please someone remind me NEVER to plan another supper club when I have raging PMT. Tell me kindly and from a safe distance to check the calendar and rearrange the date!

The new kitchen

Having said this I don’t think my guests suspected that I was a raging mess of hormones, only my long-suffering helpers in the kitchen. I’m sure from the point of view of the diners, that the night was a beautiful, calm occasion, which after the main course went out and most of the stressful bit was over, I enjoyed immensely and was dead excited as it was the first supper club since the new kitchen was installed.

Hobz and me preparing veg

Another downside of the PMT was that I became a clumsy, vague, moody cow. I drop things, break things, make a mess of stuff and for some reason my cooking always goes up the chute too. Things invariably take twice as long to prepare and what is normally the simplest of things becomes a complete mission. It all goes completely wrong and I end up getting stressed and rapidly descend into panic mode.

My weekend of horror started on Sunday when I thought I would prepare the Tipsy Laird (really just a glorified trifle made with home-made sponge soaked in whisky and orange juice rather than the usual sherry, home-made custard, raspberries, grated white chocolate, lashings of cream and topped with toasted almonds and oatmeal), bake the bread and prepare the stocks and base for the soups….sounds simple right? How wrong you would be….the only thing that went right was the making of the vanilla sponge for the base of the Tipsy Laird.

On Sunday I faffed around the kitchen, distracted and moody, whilst an array of visitors sat around the kitchen table nattering and drinking tea. I soaked my sponge in whisky and fresh squeezed orange juice, lined the bowls and got on with custard making trying to converse with my friends. With eight egg yolks in the recipe I was almost squeezing the eggs out of the poor chickens (I used the whites to make meringues for the kids for tea so they wouldn’t eat the trifle)…the teen floated around saying “what can I eat?” No, not that I replied…or that…before she sulked off saying “I can’t bloody well eat anything in this house”!!

In my dazed state I must have stopped stirring that bloody custard for 2 minutes: when I turned back it was on its way to becoming scrambled egg!!!!….Molly, one of the kitchen table tea drinkers ran back to her house swearing she knew a remedy…the other half was packed off to Tesco’s for emergency custard (the chickens weren’t going to lay enough eggs to cover another attempt) and I fumed and panicked in equal measure. To compound the problem I couldn’t get on the internet in my house. It hadn’t worked since the teen was on the computer at the weekend….One of the great mysteries of life is how teenagers manage to hex technology so successfully and then swan off claiming it worked perfectly when they left it….

Ten minutes later Molly phoned. She said that if I stirred in two tablespoons of double cream and then whisked like fuck, it should be ok. I was sceptical, my custard looked beyond redemption, but I gave it a try. To my joy it worked, the custard was saved, I tried to phone the other half to call of the custard chase but too late, he returned with three pints of Tesco finest custard. Having turned my attention to bread making I put all the ingredients in the bread machine and low and behold, it wouldn’t work. No amount of pushing buttons, switching on and off and even a gentle shake would get it to work. Eventually the other half got it going, I’ve no idea how…it is a running joke in the house that he can fix anything with a Hoover and a screw driver, but I’m not convinced that would work with the bread machine.

So then I turned my attention to soup making, surely boiling a chicken with some leeks and picking Arbroath Smokies apart would be simpler. Well, the chicken bit was ok, but the Smokies proved to be hell. In fact I’m not keen to see another smoky as long as I live. They are the boniest fish ever and I had to make sure all the skin and bones were removed from a dozen of them…even if they were delicious www.llandudnosmokery.co.uk/home.php?/home

Arbroath smokies

Not only was the soup time-consuming to prepare but it must also have been the most expensive soup I’ve ever made, but I have to say the result was fantastic!! It took me at least two hours to pick over them. By the end of Sunday I was totally frazzled. I went to bed hoping Monday would be less stressful.

Thankfully I had the house to myself all day, no kids to distract, no other work to do except prepare for the evening. The furniture had been moved round on Sunday night, my Dad would be there later to help as well as Hobz (the waitress) who was coming in after school. All good….and yes everything proceeded according to plan, smoothly even…. Tipsy Laird ready, bread made (although the machine did give up the ghost again on Monday when I tried a second loaf and no coaxing in the world would make it start again), Cullen Skink made and Cock-a-leekie finished.

Apart from Dad’s train being late and having to hang around at the station waiting for him, we were still on target. Hobz arrived and all was good, vegetables peeled and ready to cook (had to blag a few saucepans because we ran out what with all the soups, vegetables and different Haggis to cook and heat)…until the Haggis went in the pot.

I’d had the real McCoy sent down from McLays a master butcher in Glasgow (www.shop.scottishhaggis.co.uk) along with a couple of their vegetarian Haggis. It was enormous and looked fantastic. The instructions told me to preheat a large pan of water but not to boil it, I followed the instructions…popped in the Haggis and two minutes later the skin came apart. The Haggis had exploded in the pan….”NOOOOO” I shouted…Hobz came in and said “what’s happened?”….the Haggis…I pointed at the pan….its exploded!! We both stared into the pot, Oh fuck…we both said together as we watched the skin shrink further….we finally shook ourselves out of our dumbstruck stance and found spatulas etc…we lifted it out of the pan before it disintegrated further and wrapped it in foil and put it in the oven in the hope that it would cook it slowly and we would still be able to serve it on the side….then, in a state of panic I drove off to Tesco to hunt out a Haggis fit for addressing…..5 miles it is to my nearest supermarket!! I got there to be told that they didn’t sell Haggis….further panic stricken I went off to Morrison’s where I’d seen Haggis on sale….I screeched into the car park…ran into the shop to find a few left on the shelf…I got a couple and managed to get home again before 6.30!!…

Dad, Rosie B and me

By this time the teen and other half were home, they got changed and joined in the preparation. Both looked exhausted and completely unprepared….. Having had a quick change myself I set about setting out the remaining bits for our guests arrival….the whisky, salmon and bread was set out and the only thing that I anticipated would be on the late side was the main course…. Once 7.30 arrived and our first guests were knocking on the door we were pretty much ready to go and all I had to do was stress about the tatties, neeps and Haggis cooking…. We had eight guests in total (one cancellation on the night due to sickness) and everyone was seated on one large table, the perfect arrangement so it transpired. Colin, who arrived in kilt, sporran and even with his own ceremonial dagger to stab the Haggis, led a toast following my hosts welcome and got proceedings under way. I think at this point we had three bottles of whisky on the table and my Dad had already had a few to begin with!!

Smoked salmon, home made brown bread and 12-year-old single malt

The salmon and bread were passed round and the girls went off to find out who wanted cock-a-leekie and who wanted Cullen skink…. In the kitchen all was not exactly calm, but under control….. The conversation flowed as did the whisky and wine….I explained to everyone the saga of the Haggis and our Scottish guests, who were obviously Burns night veterans, stated in a matter of fact way “Oh yes, that happens all the time”….I slumped in my chair. If I’d known that I’d have not got so stressed about it!!

Cock-a-leekie soup with Julienne of prunes and buttered leeks

Cullen skink

Once the starters and salmon were cleared away and following a brief false start sorting out the music we played the piped music that we’d been given (we do have a local bagpiper in the village and we had tried to get hold of him to book him but without luck, he wouldn’t have been able to play in the house but we hoped he might be able to play in the street and piss the neighbours off!!!!). We welcomed in the Haggis….obviously the Morrison’s ones didn’t look half as impressive as the original ill-fated one, but at least they were intact. Colin then addressed the Haggis, reading from an obviously well-thumbed copy of Burns poetry. The Haggis was served with tatties and neeps mashed with plenty of butter and a drop of cream….the one from Glasgow was noticeably richer and tastier than the Morrison’s ones…and the vegetarian Haggis was delicious….it reminded me almost of a particularly good stuffing or maybe a nut-roast.

Addressing the Haggis

Stabbing the Haggis

The entertainment continued after the main course with a moving rendition of “My luve is like a red red rose” sung by my Dad who is a folk / sea shanty singer singer and actor (www.hogeyemen.com/id7.html). At this point the last two days of stress and anxiety, high emotion and PMT got the better of me. The main course served I let go and cried my eyes out in the corner much to the bemusement of the dinner guests….of course my Dad was more than happy to have such a dramatic response to his moving song. What was also beautiful was the way Rosie, Hobz and the little un all sat huddled on the stairs looking through the banisters at the entertainment below, this made me even more emotional and I cried even more.  Unfortunately i didn’t get a picture of them as they had the camera to video Dad…but i can’t seem to upload it here so i will try the Facebook site.

It's hard to make Haggis look really appetising...so best to just serve it as it comes...this was a combination of the authentic and the Morrisons one

As usual I forgot to take photos of crucial parts of the supper...this is the remains of the second bowl of Tipsy Laird!

I then attempted to compose myself and make a toast to the immortal memory of Burns, which I certainly bumbled over. Mike then read Robert Burns by William McGonagall, a tribute to the poet and Sonia finished off with Kate O’Shanters tale traditionally read at Burns suppers in response to Tam O’Shanter and following a toast to the lassies…which in our case was brief since we didn’t feel that we really fitted the bill as ‘lassies’ and all the men felt they were too long in the tooth to be toasting ‘lassies’ anyway.

We followed the entertainment with some Tipsy Laird, coffee and cheese and bannocks for whoever still had room.

The supper club girls Rosie B and Hobz

The night was great fun, but probably not the best idea on a school night. We were all shattered the next day, the other half had already had a dreadful day at work and he had to come home to this, so his head wasn’t really in it and Rosie skipped out on her homework. One of the homework’s was English so I wrote a letter apologising for her not completing the assignment, but ensuring the school that if she had waitressd at a very literary night and had probably learnt a lot about Robert Burns. The teacher responded by letting her off the homework…which Rosie thought was as good a result as the supper club was!

Denise x

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