supper club

August supper club tease

A bit of a tease…. I sent the menu and dates out for our next supper club to our mailing list late last night with the intention of posting here this morning, but all places have now gone. Here it is anyway to try to tempt you onto the mailing list for next time (or the waiting list for this time, we do get cancellations).

The aim of the supper club is to cook the food that is in season in our gardens and allotments (we can’t supply it all from there – tho we are getting better at this – but use local organic sources where we can’t). It’s just meant to be a lovely meal from the sort of things we are growing.

Currently we hold the supper club at my house in north Bristol, and maybe this time out on the veranda if we’re lucky with the weather. We make it sparkly and beautiful. Suggested donation is £30 and it is BYO bottle but there is a free cocktail on arrival. Follow us on twitter at @LiaandJuliet and email liaandjuliet@gmail.com to put yourself on the mailing list for the next one.

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August 10th menu

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Lemon verbenatini with lemon verbena sherbet

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Clear broth with allotment harvest vegetables (ham hock broth OR vegetable)

Sourdough bread

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Potted cheese with dill cucumber pickles

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Gnocchi with roast baby fennel and fennel sausage

OR

Gnocchi with broad beans, mange tout, peas and ewe’s curd

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Peach melba

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Green fennel seed fudge

Mint tea

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Rhubarb jammy dodgers

Rhubarb and vanilla jam jammy dodger

 

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We held our Spring Supper Club a couple of weeks ago (click here if you don’t know what I’m on about). I always like to make a petit four, an after-dinner frippery, which stems from the fact that I would most probably make it an ‘Afters Club’ if I possibly could. So two puddings suit me. But when you’re trying to use the sort of ingredients found in your garden – as we do – sweet things are TRICKY in spring, when really all you have to play with is rhubarb. So for pudding I went for sweet flavours, rather than fruit, and we had scented lemon geranium posset with lemon geranium sherbet, and bolstered the whole thing with orange thyme shortbread. Plant-based St Clements stylings in posset/shortbread form. It was pretty fine.

That left rhubarb available, and I had to blog this, because I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever made: home-made jammy dodgers filled with rhubarb and vanilla jam, to have with tea. Adding vanilla to the jam gives it a creamy, custardy taste, which obviously makes rhubarb very happy. The tiny black vanilla seeds suspended in the dusky pink jam made for about the most beautiful jam I have ever seen, and there’s plenty of competition.  The biscuits are buttery, smooth and full of vanilla themselves. Altogether a HIT.

Obviously you can substitute this for any kind of jam as the season goes on – I rather fancy a gooseberry jammy dodger – but I found the recipe for my jam here.

And here’s the recipe for the biscuits:

110g softened butter

50g icing sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

150g plain flour

25g cornflour

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4 and line a baking tray with parchment. Cream together the butter and icing sugar, then add egg yolk (then mix), vanilla extract (mix), flour (fold), cornflour (fold), salt (er…mix). You are left with nearly a dough and need to use your hands to JUST bring it all together while being careful not to overwork. Biscuits want snap, and kneading makes for less of it. Roll out to the ubiquitous £1 coin thickness, and start cutting. I used my smallest cutter for cuteness but you could make them bigger. I made the hole in the middle with the tube that had held the vanilla pods and used the end of a straw to make the pattern on the top. You don’t need me to tell you to make the same number of plain bottoms and fancy tops, right…? Bake for about ten minutes. You want them pale, still. Cool on a rack, assemble whenever, and serve to *thrilled* guests.

If you are interested in finding out about the next supper club menu and dates before the rest of the world, please do sign up for our mailing list liaandjuliet@gmail.com . There will be more of this kind of thing, but over flowing with summertime garden bounty next time. Fun, fun.

PS We are in north Bristol. I always assume that people know – though there is no reason in the world that they should – and have to disappoint a couple of Australians. And I hate that.

Gooseberry knickerbocker glory

Ooh…

‘I always have a glut of gooseberries,’ I announced, swaggeringly. ‘We’ll use gooseberries for the supper club.’ Gooseberries are no apricots (still no fruit, nor even flowers), they are not even strawberries (reluctantly bearing fruit to get quickly munched by a tsunami of slugs). They are easy, dependable and even a little over zealous, and are one of the crops I always get just a little bit sick of by the time they call it a season.

Not so this year. The crop was small. Really very small. I wont take my tart lovelies for granted again. Im inclined to blame This Pants Summer (TM) but do tell me if you’ve had a bumper crop; maybe my old dependables are just getting old and undependable. I think I’d prefer that. It all feels a bit apocalyptic/2012 if even gooseberries can’t cope with a British summer.

But it turns out a gooseberry knickerbocker glory is the perfect thing to do with a smidgeon of gooseberries. The beauty of your gooseberry knickerbocker glory – well, one of the great many beauties of your gooseberry knickerbocker glory – is that the sharp fruit is layered with ice cream, sweeter stuff, crunchy things, and whatever delights you can think of to make it go further and to complement and enhance it. Here’s what went into mine:

Elderflower ice cream

Shortbread

Gooseberry puree, only slightly sweetened

Chantilly cream (double cream whipped with vanilla and icing sugar)

A few sweet, pink, dessert gooseberries, raw

Crystallised and frozen elderflowers

I wont give you recipes or we’ll be here all day, but you get the idea. All of this was made up in advance and spooned, giggling, into the glasses at the last moment. Fun, fun. The sweet pink dessert gooseberries were the clincher: one in the bottom of each glass (like the gobstopper in the base of a Screwball), a layer of chopped ones somewhere in the middle, and one like a cherry on top. We bought a punnet, but if I’m going to be replanting this is where I’ll start. They were delicious.

The only essential here is the correct glass – it must look like it has been nicked from a 1950s diner – and the correct long spoon, for delving into the depths. Other than that this is more a blueprint than a recipe. Knock yourself out, play around: have fun with your gooseberry dearth.

I love the above picture supper club guest Jason Ingram took of me and Juliet delivering them to the table, mainly because – by dint of lucking into in the fuzzy bit near the instagram border – I look a bit like something from a 1950s diner myself. I think I must be whipping up the crowd by going ‘Ooh!’ as I hand them out, and I am planning to go about like that more often as it has done wonders for my cheek bones. JAS has commented elsewhere that Juliet looks like ‘a hot Bavarian barmaid’, so I reckon she’ll be delighted I’ve reposted it too … Ooh…

Success! and green garlic soup

So we did it! Saturday was our first ‘Lia & Juliet’ supper club and we only went and pulled it off. We took an entire two days off work to chop, blanch, braise, bake and crystallise, and to fiddle with table cloths and napkins and champagne glasses, and to fret over whether our allocation of fairy lights was up to supper-club minimum standard (not, we think, as it turns out. We will remedy). It was huge fun, especially for something we could sort of pretend was work. Some of the things we did were a huge hit, others I think less so. We have learnt plenty of lessons and I genuinely can’t wait for the next one (as well as being mighty relieved that we are only doing four a year…).

But in the meantime I thought I’d furnish you with one of our recipes. One of the real hits, rather than one of the near misses: green garlic soup with nettle pesto and pea shoot shot glasses. The idea of the evening was to link it back to the garden at as many points as possible. You can find green garlic in your better class of greengrocer, true, but it is an ingredient you will mostly be able to track down in your own garden, by plucking your garlic before its prime. You lose a lot of the potential bulk that you would have gained in the coming growing season, but you gain a whole other vegetable and a delicate sweet garlic taste, with none of the pungency of the fully formed version. It’s quite a decadent thing to do, you racy thing you, but you might do it as a little spring treat for yourself, if you’ve got plenty growing. (NB: they really are quite small at the moment. You could leave them to bulk up a little and try this in a few weeks time).

To tease out that sweetness I roasted the garlic low and slow, until the outsides were papery and the innards were soft and gooey. Once they’d cooled a bit those papery parts were peeled away to reveal the insides. I love the look of the thwarted cloves-to-be. Beautiful. Into a vat of stock they went with some waxy boiled potatoes, and all whizzed up. Salt and pepper and a bit of single cream and it was done.

For the nettle pesto we blanched some young nettle tips in boiling water for a minute or so (otherwise tingly tongue will be yours) squeezed the water out of them and chopped, before pestling them up with some garlic, toasted hazelnuts, pecorino romano and olive oil. Each guest got their own little shot glass of pea shoots, to graze over and sprinkle onto their soup. The whole thing tasted – if I may say so myself – like spring in a teacup.

Our second will be in the summer sometime, date to be decided, and it will be even better. Interest is high so if you want first dibs on places, get yourself on the mailing list liaandjuliet@gmail.com as the date will be announced there first. See you then…

PS You can also follow us on twitter @liaandjuliet