Tag Archives: blinis

Dinner at the headmasters

This was our one supper club that survived the December snow, a private event booked a year ago, and one which required us to pack up our boxes and bags and head off on tour along the A55 to Llandudno and the home of St. David’s College headmaster Stuart, to celebrate his 40th birthday.

The origins of this booking go back even further, to the summer of 2009 to be exact, four months before I’d even started the secret supper club. It was the St. David’s College ‘Auction of Promises’ an event scheduled to raise funds for the schools charity project in Uganda, specifically to build a maternity unit.

At the time I’d mentioned to Sean (my other half) that I would like to give something or help in some way and I came up with the idea of donating myself, or at least my skills and time to cook and prepare a dinner party for up to ten. The auction came and I was somewhat nervous at the thought that no one would bid for me and even more nervous when the headmaster won me!! But as I said, this was a year and a half ago and following this we’d been unable to find a date that suited, until Stuart asked if I would cook at his house for his birthday. So the dinner became my fulfilment of the commitment I made at the auction as well as staying true to the supper club ethos. The only proviso was that no St. David’s pupils worked as waitresses (that ruled Roisin or any of her friends out) so Anya and her friend Emma came along to help.

I got together with Stuart and we discussed menu, which ended up being based around his favourite dishes. We started with Mini yeast blini canapes with sour cream, smoked salmon and dill or oak roast tomatoes from the tomato stall at Borough market, Champagne or Kir Royale.

To make Kir Royale just add a dessertspoon of blackcurrant cassis to a glass of bubbly to give it a pink glow and a little sweetness.

Then for starters we opted for a classic moules mariniere, with cream, thyme and parsley or smoked halloumi salad for the vegetarians and mussel haters, a dish I’ve made before for a previous supper club.

For main course I did slow cooked lamb shanks with parmesan mash and broccoli (another dish I’ve served before) or an Ottolenghi inspired squash and chickpea stew with lemon couscous. We finished with a very dark and rich chocolate mousse cake (from one of my new Christmas recipe books) with bitter orange sorbet, followed by coffee, Port and cheese.

Green and Blacks Dark chocolate mousse cake:

1 tablespoon ground almonds, plus a bit extra to dust the tin, 300g dark chocolate or 200g dark chocolate plus 100g Maya Gold orange chocolate, 275g caster sugar, 165g unsalted butter, a pinch of sea salt, 5 large eggs and a pot of edible gold dust (Waitrose sell it if you don’t have a specialist cake shop near you)

Preheat the oven to 180 degree C/350 degree F/gas mark 4. Brush a 23cm loose bottom cake tin with some melted butter and dust with ground almonds.

Melt the chocolate, caster sugar, butter and salt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of very gently simmering water. Once melted remove from the heat.

Whisk the eggs with the ground almonds and when light and airy fold into the chocolate mixture which will begin to thicken after a few minutes. Pour into the cake tin and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.

When its slightly cooled remove the sides of the cake tin but leave the cake on the base. When its cold dust the top with a little sieved icing sugar or brush the top with edible gold dust.

The only hiccup that threatened the event was the snow, which also meant I’d struggled to get some of my local produce. I screwed up on the lamb front missing the butcher on Christmas eve so I ended up having to get the lamb from elsewhere (it was still Welsh lamb though) and the Conwy mussel man left me sweating until the night before, when he finally rang to confirm he had some for me. The only thing I failed to pick up was the local purple sprouting broccoli and it pained me to do it but I had to buy from the supermarket (it was British though at least). I left the house with a grumpy Roisin shouting after me

“You better tell me everything that happens when you get back!”

It seemed odd cooking at someone else’s house, although I have to say we soon got into the swing of it. We had wine, drinks, music (Stuart’s partner Lucy lent us their young son’s ipod dock which he’d got for Christmas, which left us feeling very guilty as he scowled at us from the corner) and we had lots of space!! Emma got carried away with the ice machine on the fridge (ice in everything!) and I seriously coveted their work surface and made very the most of it, amazed at how much difference it made to ease of preparation.

unpacking the crates, supper club kit on tour

lots of space!!!!

Stuart, his family and guests crept into their own kitchen sheepishly and almost apologetically at times, which was quite funny, and apart from the three of us still feeling shattered from Christmas, snow and various lurgies it all ran remarkably smoothly. No really, it did and this surprises me because it was the first time we’d taken supper club on tour!

I avoided the wine and Champagne until the meal was underway, so everything took shape nicely. The girls were the perfect cocktail waitresses and I deliberately kept a low profile. I wasn’t sure for a time if it was weird cooking at the home of my daughter’s headmaster, but in the end it didn’t feel that way at all. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, the food appeared to go down well and as the girls and I left everyone eating cheese, drinking Port and coffee and about to head outside to their fire, they all seemed to have a full and happy smile on their face.

In my usual style I forgot to photograph the mussels and the main course. I need a food photographer as I get too stressed about getting the food to the table hot to worry about whether I’ve taken a picture of it and when you have twelve lamb shanks to serve with mash the last thing on your mind is the photography!

making mini yeast blinis topped with smoked salmon and dill and oak smoked tomatoes from the tomato stall at Borough Market


finished blinis

Kir Royale to celebrate being ready!


My lovely waitresses Anya and Emma who worked very hard all evening



plating smoked halloumi salads for those not having mussels, but then I totally forgot to photograph the mussels




Very simple, but really rich and chocolatey 'Green and Black's' mousse cakes brushed with edible gold dust




doing what I do best...organising!! and looking rather scary brandishing my knife at some unsuspecting coffee cups!



Serving pudding...chocolate cake with bitter orange sorbet (or granita as it turned out!!)




A very happy (and at this point quite merry) party

As we packed up in the kitchen one of Stuart’s friends came and thrust posh chocolates at us made by his sister, an artisan chocolatier, ganache truffles I believe they were and I had a ginger and lemongrass one. They were too delicious to just have one we had to take an extra for the drive back. It was a lovely end to a lovely evening.


We arrived home at about midnight, tired but happy. As we got in the door Roisin was waiting

“well”? she said

“well, what?” I replied

“well, what happened”?

“Everyone had a lovely dinner, drank wine, chatted and had a nice time” I said

“Oh” she said crestfallen “is that all?” and she sloped off to bed.

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The forgotten recipes of Christmas and new year

I promised so many people during the Christmas period that I would stick my recipes on the blog. Most of these promises were broken. I was so busy to-ing and fro-ing, trying to keep up with other work, making Christmas presents, preparing supper clubs and ferrying kids between their social dates, that sitting down and writing recipes on the blog fell by the wayside.

Now i shall make it up to all those people to whom I promised particular recipes, whilst adding a little bit about the origins of each recipe  as I go along.

Forgotten recipe number 1: Christmas pudding-for the very nice man on the Bangor to London train, whose name i didn’t get. I know it’s late, but maybe next year huh?

The littleun and me showing off our puddings

I have been making my Christmas puds this way ever since I moved to Wales, which will be 20 years ago this May. The recipe is slightly adapted from one which I found in an old Sainsburys recipe book.

Sift 175g (6oz) plain flour, 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice, 1 generous teaspoon cinnamon and half a teaspoon grated nutmeg into a large bowl. Mix in 175g (6oz) fresh brown breadcrumbs then rub in 175g (6oz) softened butter.

Stir in 175g (6oz) soft brown sugar, 350g (12oz) sultanas, 250g (8oz) raisins, the same amount of currants and 75g (3oz) mixed peel. Add the grated rind and juice of one orange, 2 beaten eggs and 120ml of brown ale (or stout). Give it a good mix, don’t forget to have a wish and then turn it into a greased 1.75litre (3 pint) pudding basin (or two smaller ones like we did). Cover with a pudding cloth or greaseproof paper and a sheet of foil pleated in the middle and tied on with string. Steam for 6 hours topping up the water as necessary.

Allow to cool and then replace the greaseproof paper and foil with fresh and store in a cool dry place. These can be made up to 4 months in advance and they get better with time. When you are ready to serve them, steam again for about 2 hours, turn out onto a warm dish, douse well with warm brandy and then ignite.

Christmas pud ablaze

Forgotten recipe number two: smoked salmon and sour cream blinis: for the can can girls who became addicted to blinis at our kids Christmas party

A couple of years ago I was given a book which contained cocktail recipes and snacks for cocktail parties. It came from NEXT of all places, but this blini recipe has been an overwhelming hit ever since I first gave it a go.

blinis in progress

Mix a 7g sachet of yeast and a pinch of sugar into 250ml of warm milk and leave to stand for a few minutes. Place 160g plain flour in a bowl (you could replace 60g with buckwheat flour for a slightly different taste) and make a well in the centre. Add 2 egg yolks (save the egg whites til later) and milk mixture and whisk until combined and smooth. Cover the bowl with a teatowel and leave to stand in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Melt 20g of butter and stir into proved mixture, season and then fold in one-third of the egg whites until just mixed. Fold in the remaining egg white gently until just combined.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. When hot drop in a dessertspoonful of blini mixture to make a rough circle, this gets easier with practise, although I kind of like the free form appearance of each blini. Cook until bubbles begin to form on the surface then turn over. This should only take about 30 seconds each side and they should look light brown in colour. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool. The mixture should make about 40 blinis.

When they are cool put a dollop of sour cream on each and a strip of smoked salmon (which I got from Jody at the Llandudno smoakery www.llandudnosmokery.co.uk/home.php?/home ) top with a sprig of dill and if liked quarter of a teaspoon of salmon roe.

Forgotten recipe number 3: White chocolate nipples and chocolate truffles this is for everyone that said “oh my god, those truffles are gorgeous”….

This was the first year I attempted to make proper truffles with chocolate on the outside instead of icing sugar, cocoa or chocolate sprinkles (the cheats approach). It was also the first year I made white chocolate truffles. Both were very much trial and error. My first attempts ended up with a fine white coating on the chocolate. I needed advice, so I phoned a friend. She told me that my chocolate needed to be hot and then I had to make then very cold (i.e. put them in the fridge until set properly). Leaving them to cool at room temperature in our old, damp houses just meant that the condensation discoloured them. They still tasted nice though!!

My second attempt was better.

The White chocolate truffle recipe took me back to 1986. The place was Bishopstrow house in Wiltshire, an upmarket hotel where I went to do work experience whilst doing my chef training. Unfortunately I was distracted. It was a long hot summer, I was a wayward teenager and he was a hot young chef called Martin Zalensky. The encounter was brief and i have no idea where he is now, but his recipe has stood the test of time, to remind me of a heady misspent summer.

500g of white chocolate couverture, 175g double cream, 65g glucose, 75g butter.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Bring the cream and glucose to the boil then add to the chocolate. Cool down a bit then beat in the whipped butter. When its cool and set scoop into balls….when I first did this back at Bishopstrow House, the summer was so hot i had to stand in the cold room because the chocolate melted too much.

Cover in melted chocolate couverture….I found this difficult i have to say. White chocolate doesn’t have as much cocoa solids as dark and it either got too hot and went powdery or was not hot enough. I tired mixing in alcohol, butter, you name it but the problem remained. If anyone has any tips I’d love to know!!!

home-made truffles

If there are any recipes I missed out, which I have promised please remind me and I will add them too

Denise xx

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