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
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!!
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!
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.
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.
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
I’d managed to get 15 aphrodisiacs into the menu
4/ Coriander (although this may be arguable as I have seen it noted as an anaphrodisiac in some places too)
9/ Pine nuts
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.
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….