OK, so we were two days early but supper club on a school night is a hard one to pull off without ending up with stressed and tired kids the morning after.
Saturday was a great night though; laid back, low-key and avoiding the clichéd saccharin sweetness of the romantic dinner on the day itself. There were no hearts on the tables (although there were plenty of flowers) and instead we joined a tantalising array of intense flavours including a few with an allegedly aphrodisiac quality (unintentional this year, although totally purposeful last!!) a Valentines dinner would not be complete without chocolate and bubbly stuff.
This was in fact our first dinner of 2011 and I wondered if we’d get back into the swing of things easily (forced to cancel the last couple of dinners of 2010 due to the snow we realised we hadn’t in fact cooked here since the beginning of November)…I needn’t have worried (although inevitably I do!), setting up ran as smooth as clockwork and was mostly done when Roisin (the teen) joined in to work at 6pm (stressed out by GCSE coursework). By the time our second waitress Molly arrived and diners started knocking on the door we were all ready to go. There have been a few significant changes since the last time we cooked, I’ve mentioned the new ice cream machine but I also have a new oven which has made life so much easier as well as being fully qualified in the food hygiene department!!
Our group of diners had a choice of a shared table or a table for two, so giving them the opportunity to have some privacy and be intimate or chatty. Those who shared struck up conversation quickly and seemed to gel well, linked I hope by a love of yummy food.
I’d changed the menu slightly since I advertised it, having experimented with the chicken mole we weren’t keen so I settled on an Italian themed chicken and chorizo spezzatino and whilst most of the ingredients were local, or at least grown in the UK, I did also indulge in a few goodies collected from Borough Market during my trip to London last week.
The menu included a glass of Prosecco on arrival, followed by a rich and creamy carrot and leek soup with fresh thyme and home-made spelt (flour from Bacheldre watermill in Montgomery) and caraway seed rolls.
Next came the chicken spezzatino, a hearty flavoursome Italian stew made with really good Spanish chorizo from Brindisa in Borough market.
I used the mild cooking chorizo that imparted a really glorious, rich flavour to the dish adding onions, celery, some finely diced carrots, fresh thyme and garlic sweated until soft, but not browned, for about ten minutes. I then chucked in a glass of red wine followed by three-quarters of a tin of tomatoes and some chicken stock. I allowed it to come to the boil before adding a couple of tins of organic cannellini beans. In the meantime I seasoned and browned the chicken joints, finally adding them to the casserole before covering and sticking it in the oven. Half way through cooking I added a drained can of artichoke hearts and some skinned roasted peppers.
I also made a vegetarian alternative with semi-dried tomatoes in oil, roasted peppers, vegetable stock and a good handful of pot barley (an adapted idea from the salad club girls) and topped with crumbled feta rather than the chicken. Both were served with a handful of simple spinach salad with a lemony dressing and a mixture of toasted pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and poppy seeds.
Next came a blackcurrant and Prosecco sorbet (made to perfection in the new ice cream machine) using frozen black currants picked at Moelyci in the summer…straight from the bush to the freezer bag providing us with a vitamin C injection just when we need it!
It was sharp and zingy and the perfect palate cleanser before heading into the cheese course, a creamy baked Vacherin with chutney and home-made French / wholemeal bread. Mont’D’Or Vacherin is a rich Swiss cheese produced specifically from the milk of cows grazing the slopes of the Jura mountains. It is strictly controlled production wise and is only available during the winter months. I picked mine up at Le Marche du Quartier in Borough, a specialist of French foods. I baked it studded with a few slivers of garlic and a small glass of white wine poured over to make a kind of fondue. I’d never actually tried it before so wanted to give it a go, although having done so I would say it is an acquired taste, strong in odour as well as heavy and rich. The other half complained when I returned home with them saying that they were the only thing he could smell in the house and the aroma definitely lingered for a day or two! If you want to give Vacherin a try, get in there quickly, the season ends in a month or so.
After such a mammoth feast we finished with coffee and some chocolate ganache truffles, recipe courtesy of the Green and Blacks cookbook I got for Christmas.
Since the other half was unwell and away resting at a friends with the little un, Molly (who is generally pretty on the ball and organised) stood in for him. I half expected it to be a tight ship in the kitchen, but judging by the pictures on my camera and the debris left at the end it seems that the teen and the ‘adult’ made their own entertainment. While I drank a glass of wine and chatted to my guests they were apparently bored so this is what the two of them got up to in the kitchen!
and last but not least
As for Valentines day, we had our own little family love in on Monday in true soppy, silly style complete with choclates, flowers and pink fizz