Monday, 13 December 2010

Calling all cooking enthusiasts!

You may have noticed that things have been rather quiet here over the last few months. We'll the truth is it has been a time of transition for us, for a number of reasons which we won't bore you with now. The main reason we've entered a state of hibernation, is that my partner in this adventure has moved to New York, leaving a substantial hole.

So for now, i'm afraid to announce that Toob has temporarily stopped trading (or filling bellies).

On the up side, this definitely isn't the end, as we'd very much like to start the New Year, with a New Trail of our Bread. So here goes our little advert.


Are you an amateur cook that dreams of one day owning their own restaurant, or an enthusiastic cook that spends weekends cooking for large number of friends? The person that always takes delicious weekend endeavours into work on Monday, bribing the love an adoration of your colleagues.

Perhaps your a professional cook, looking for the opportunity to sharpen your knives on something more personal to you. Looking for an arena to be more creative and experimental.

If any of the above is the case then we may need you.

We can't lie, supper clubbing is hard work, doesn't pay well (if at all), and does require a lot of things other than cooking.

Typical tasks include:
  • Updating the Blog
  • Researching recipes
  • Answering booking enquiries
  • Posting news on social media channels (Twitter, Facebook etc)
  • Loosing most of your weekend on supper club nights to: Prepping, washing up, cooking, serving, shopping.

But hey, we do it for the love right, so if you have the love, are passionate about food, and want to get involved then drop me an email and we'll arrange a meeting. I'm interested to hear from people with ideas in making something that i spent a year building, into something new and exciting.

Get Involved. This could be the start of something beautiful.

Cheerio for now.


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Hampered, in a good British way

On Saturday 31st July l awoke, and as my peepers adjusted to the shock of being sprung from hibernation, they began to search ardently for light - lot's of it, but there wasn't enough. I sprung from the cloud, flung back the curtains and squinted into a solemn grey sky. This wasn't the plan, did I forget to tell someone that today was our first foray into supper clubbing outside…that today was the Great British Picnic!

For the weeks prior to the picnic, l had busied myself with researching a menu that personified hazy summer afternoons in Britain; food that complemented the smells of parched lawns and smouldering fauna, but alas it looked like the weather was going to dampen the mood.

Nevertheless, food had been bought, diners booked, the shown had to go on. What's more, there seemed something apt about a British picnic being enjoyed under heavy bulbous grey skies in July - or so I thought. As it got nearer to 4 in the afternoon, shards of glorious light began to break through as if beamed down by the smiling god of picnics (Hampa - the god of picnics?). Grass steamed off under the new heat, wildlife ventured from their dry hideouts, it appeared the scene was setting, putting the word 'great' back into the picnic.

As our guests carefully arranged their blankets, and unfolded camping chairs, we popped the lids off our homemade lemonade to "let the sunshine in", or get things going if you're not robbing lyrics from terrible musicals.

Homemade Lemonade

Our guests slurped, and didn't squint which mean't the lemonade was rightly sweetened, so our first course of Chilled Pea and Mint soup w/ truffle ricotta was served.

Chilled Pea and Mint Soup w/truffle ricotta

Now, l have to admit, l still find it hard to get used to the idea of chilled soups, but have tried a few this summer and this one certainly goes towards the top. For me chilled soups need to be light and zingy, so this one worked nicely.

For the main course we served a selection of dishes, that our guests filled there paper plates with; Black Pudding scotch eggs, shooters sandwich, summer ruby salad, homemade piccalilli, and Anya potato salad with shallots and vinagarette.

Scotch eggs w/ black pudding

Shooters Sandwich

Summer Ruby Salad

My favourite dish from the selection had to be the black pudding, but I'm totally biased as they have to be up there as one of my guilty pleasures. They retain a nostalgic fondness, which has only been slightly ruined by the odd occasion I've foolishly slipped one of those insipid grey meat covered versions (found in every service station) into my mouth. I took inspiration for my scotch eggs from a number of sources, but after a few experimental attempts, plumped for the following recipe.

Black Pudding Scotch Eggs Recipe (Makes about 8-10 eggs)

1 Onion
A few knobs of butter
400g of Pork Sausage Meat
200g of Black Pudding, chopped into small cubes.
Sage & Thyme (to taste, l used 1/2 tbsp of chopped sage to 1tbsp of Tyme)
Salt and Pepper
8 eggs
Beaten Egg (for the wash)
Flour (for the covering)


Firstly chop the onion into small dices and then cook on a low heat, preferably under a round piece of parchment paper, so that the onions become sweet and slightly crispy. Just as the onions look ready in the pan add the chopped sage and thyme then remove from the heat. Place the sausage meat and the small cubes of black pudding in a large mixing bowl and then add the onions once they have cooled. Next soft boil your eggs by placing them in a pan covered by 1/2 inch of cold water, bring to the boil, them simmer for 3 minutes. Once you've shelled your eggs, carefully roll each one in flour, as this helps it bind with the sausage mixture. Then wet your hands and take a small handful of the sausage mixture and place it into the ball of your hand. Next flatten the sausage mixture so it almost covers your hand and place the egg in the centre. Start enveloping the egg carefully until the sausage meat has entirely covered the egg. A handy video that shows this technique can be seen here. It's a little annoying so you may want to fast forward to 5 minutes in to see the technique.

Now most of the hard work is out of the way, you simply roll the covered egg in egg wash, then roll it in the breadcrumbs. I repeated this process as I wanted an extra crisp coating, although I'm sure this isn't essential. Lastly deep fry the scotch egg for around 4-8 minutes until the egg takes on a dark brown colour. I used a open fat fryer at 160 celsius.

To finish the experience of dining outside, it wouldn't be a British summer without a trifle, so l carefully pulled out 16 little cyclinders filled with Strawberry's, champagne jelly, creme anglaise, sponge, and whipping cream. It was fun watching our guests delve into the receptacles like red squirrels searching for carefully stored nuts.

Strawberry Champagne Trifle

Our first foray into supper clubbing outside had me sweating about the logistics of such an undertaking, but it seemed to go we'll, and I even got to eat with everyone too - which was extra nice!

We'd like to say a big thank you to Jon Baker from Good Food magazine who popped down to take some decent photo's of our food - the ones in this post. Very much appreciated, and if your interested in some of his personal work you can find out more about his work here.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Great British Picnic

Up and down the country, parched lawns groan for moisture, dogs pant under the cooling seclude of a kitchen table, and the smoky smells of food scorching on a barbecue, waft over garden fences. It's the time for eating outside and were in the mood to embrace this while the goings (hopefully) good. With the long days, comes the opportunity to bust away from the hot stove and the artifice of bulb lit kitchens, and to bask in sepia afternoons with hand held nibbles.

I love the careful preparation of making food to be enjoyed al fresco, so this month were stocking up on hampers, paper plates and cups and taking the next supper club outdoors. On the 24th July the theme will be the Great British Picnic with a menu looking something like this:

Homemade Lemonade

Pea and Mint soup w/ truffle ricotta foam

Black pudding scotch egg w/picallilli

Chick pea stuffed courgette flowers

Shooters Sandwhich

Summer Ruby Salad

Anya potato salad w/ shallots and vinagarette

English Trifle

This supper club will be taking part somewhere in Victoria Park and will commence from 4 o'clock, so dust the dried grass from your picnic rug and get booking.

Mexican food is tough work, it almost tequila'd us

Normally our supper club themes, see our guests turning up with easy drinking wines, but the Mexican themed night saw people arrive armed with various brands of Tequila. It was nice to see that everyone was getting into the spirit of things!

We'd planned to get things moving ourselves, with a homemade Margarita for all diners. Like any drink with tequila in it, the tentative drinker seems to approach the glass like a person who has to de-venom an injured colleague - slight fear, but a knowledge it'll probably be worth it in the end. I'm sure our Margarita didn't disappoint, which we followed from this classic recipe we swiped while holidaying in San Francisco.

(This makes 4 margaritas)
Ice Cubes
240ml of Sour Mix
85 ml Blanco Tequila
36ml Cointreau
18ml Orange juice

The tequila used was Arette Blanco Tequila, recommended by the shop I tend to buy most of my booze from - The Whiskey Exchange in Borough Market. It's a little tucked away (you have to walk through Lathwaites wine shop), but it's worth it. Always impressed how knowledgable the staff are there…and it's reasonably priced too. Ha, that really reads like an advertisement placement, but I mean every word!

So with a difficult act to follow, our first course was served - Salmon ceviche w/ fresh mango salsa and home made tortilla chips . I waited with bated breath to see if our guests would notice the authenticity of the home-made nachos, as they were a little labour of love.

While in San Francisco the notable difference between their tortilla chips and the ones we have in the UK was considerable. Wonderfully hot, crunchy yellow corn tortilla's would be bought to the table before glancing at a menu, and before you'd know it - the whole basket was polished off, and busily filled again. Damn the unlimited pot of triangular heaven. I had to recreate this for our guests, and so began my experiments in creating homemade nachos.

Our experiments started with cutting wedges out of the standard flour tortilla (that proliferates the supermarkets in the UK) and deep frying them in groundnut oil. The results were not unpleasant, but not better than anything that can be bought in a shop. Instead of a golden colour, the end result was rather pallid, and any attempt to get them looking heat kissed, resulted in them burning quickly. They also arrived crispy on the outside and a little chewy in the middle. I guessed this must have been something to do with some moister retention (being fresh flour tortillas) so I tried frying a batch using stale tortilla's and another fried after being dried out in the oven. Both methods seemed to rectify the soggy centres, but unfortunately it seemed there was no way to authentically replicate mexican chips using floured tortilla's. For that authentic mexican tortilla chips you have to use corn based tortillas, which unfortunately are not readily available in the UK, but if you feel inspired and live in the Bethnal Green area you can pick them up at Casa Mexico (along with most of the specialist ingredients i had to source for this supper club). Alternatively this website has a comprehensive list. To make the corn tortilla chips you simply cut a tortilla into wedges and fry in a deep fat fryer for around 2-4 minutes per batch, then dry on kitchen towel and toss in sea salt. They proved to be the perfect accompaniment to the Salmon Ceviche, as guest scooped large pieces of the raw salmon and mango onto the chips.

The second course saw Beef Empanadas served w/ salsa and salad, a dish very familiar with anyone that's travelled in South America, and that varies subtly between regions. The Mexican empanada tends to be a little fruiter than those on the South American continent, with many recipes I'd tested including pineapple, raisons, apple, and pumpkin. I opted to keep it to apple and raison as this gave them the right amount of sweetness. l did try a version with pineapple too, but found this too sweet for my taste.

Throughout this months theme, I really wanted to show the more experimental side to Mexican cuisine so was a little worried that Empanadas might be a little familiar to our guests, but when I read a little about the origins of the meaty parcels, I had to leave it on the menu. The Mexican Empanada is a variation of our very own Cornish Pasty, as it was taken over by Cornish miners, during times when the silver mines needed their expertise - a nice little link and not too surprising when you consider the recipe and look. It also appears you don't have to soot your face and wield a pick axe to work up an appetite to eat them, as some of our guests with healthier appetites went in for seconds.

The first two courses may have felt a little more like a dreamy siesta, as the next two dishes were my tequila soaked worm. For main came the Meatballs in Chipotle chile w/ mexican rice.

A homely dish that celebrates all that is good about Mexican food, heat, complex smokey spices with herbs springing freshness in the dish. When l tested the meatballs l ate them until my stomach felt like a pocket creaking under too much loose change. On the night every guest seemed to want more. Luckily l had prepared more than enough, so our guests lucked out, and my dinner the next day rapidly disappeared. Sob.

For the desert came a change to the planned menu - out went mexican chocolate pudding and in came Capirotada w/ homemade vanilla ice cream.

When l initially began researching the mexican menu, l thought that desert would have to be something macabre, something dark and chocolatey, with hidden heat from a chili so that Diablo himself felt he was scraping your tongue with a trident. I'm starting to regret building this up, because instead of the wicked, the Mexican chocolate pudding tested turned out a little predictable. At this point i turned to a recipe l found for a Capirotada, a desert usually eaten around Easter in Mexico and remarkably resembling the bread pudding we have in the UK; apart from the fact it has a spiced syrup, and cheese instead of custard. Yup you read correct - CHEESE. It seems Mexicans put cheese in everything, especially deserts, but intrigue got the better of me and l had to see how it turned out, so the recipe went into test.

The resulting pudding is a sure fire hit, and if l wasn't the caring sharing type, l would definitely try and keep this one to my self. It's a wonderful, hearty desert and would be a great alternative at Christmas, for those that find Christmas pudding or fruit cake not to their taste. It certainly seems to borrow a lot from these dishes, but has subtleties to suite delicate palates. The cheese is a stroke of genius too, as it really, really works. It adds a creamy sourness that cuts through the spiced syrup. Without it l suspect the dish would even be a little sweet.

It certainly seemed to be the star of the night and the dish that most guests wanted the recipe for so here it is. I urge you to try it, this recipe serves 10.

For the syrup:
500 g/18 oz dark muscovado or Barbados sugar
1 litre/1 3/4 pints water
4 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
5 ml/1 tsp fennel seeds
1 large lemon, juice and grated rind

For the bread pudding:
350 g/12 oz bread, two or three days old, sliced 1 cm/1/2 thick. In mexico they use bolillos as the bread, but a French stick is recommended as a replacement. I actually used an uncut white loaf as i wanted to control the presentation.
Soft unsalted butter
175 g/6 oz raisins
250 g/9 oz toasted, flaked almonds
250 g/9 oz eating apples, peeled and thinly sliced
200 g/7 oz fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled

To start, place all the ingredients for the syrup in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring all the time to ensure the sugar dissolves. Once it starts to boil, turn the heat right down and leave to simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Strain into a large jug and set aside. You can reserve the cinnamon sticks and use them when baking in the pudding, but I took them out as l didn't want guests to find bits of cinnamon bark in their dish.

Next lightly butter the stale bread on both sides and arrange a layer on the bottom of an ovenproof dish - You should aim for two and a bit layers of bread, so your dish should allow for this. Sprinkle with half the raisins, almonds, sliced apples (I used a cox apple and cored and sliced into discs for presentation) and cheese. Repeat the process, adding another layer of bread and the rest of the fruit, nuts, cinnamon and cheese, and finish off with remaining bread. Carefully pour the syrup all over the pudding and set aside for at least one hour, or even overnight in the refrigerator, to give the bread time to absorb all the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/gas 4/fan oven 160oC. Bake the Capirotada until golden, for approximately 30 to 45 minutes then serve. Capirotada is traditionally served at room temperature, but I preferred it hot and served it with home made vanilla ice cream.

After a few enthusiastic swings at the pinata, partly fueled by the effects of the worm, our guests departed - a little loco, with their pockets filled with sweets. We wouldn't want it any other way.

Monday, 31 May 2010

And you will know us by the day of the dead

You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet in our neck of woods of late. We can only apologise for the slight absence, but we promise it'll be worth it.

We've been off on our holidays you see, and with travel comes new knowledge, new ideas. To be specific I've had a title stint in the United States of America, and to linger on the details more, a little time was spent in Chicago and a bit more time in San Francisco, with a few road trips in-between. It was of course incredible, and so was some of the food our eager mouths sampled. Well, actually some of it was incredible, and a lot of it just plain huge. They certainly do have an ethos of good food equaling large portions from my experience.

The culinary take-aways, from the land of fast food had to be brunch, good burgers, and Mexican food. America seems to 'do' brunch better than anywhere else, the best being Dottie's True Blue cafe in San Francisco, which I intend to blog about in another guise soon.

Obviously burgers seem to be the nations obsession, but the real joy for me is eating in Mexican restaurants. I love Mexican food, and it feels like a real discovery when ever I eat this cuisine on the west coast. For obvious geographic reasons the authentic Mexican dining experience has been a little off the mark in blighty (apart from more authentic experiences from Wahaca and a few of the better burrito joints popping up in London, of which Daddy Donkey comes recommended).

For that reason, this months supper club on June 19th has gone all Mexican with our theme Day of the dead. Now we know that this Mexican festival is strictly in November, but hey, it sounds good so to hell with it.

So gringo's, take a look at our 'Day of the Dead' menu, carefully crafted from the bulging bags of our travels. As ever, this may be subject to change on the night, but any deviations will be slight.

Menu para Dia de los Muertos (Day of the dead menu):

Salmon ceviche w/ fresh mango salsa and La Palapa's tortilla chips
Ceviche de salmon con pico de mango y totopos de La Palapa

Beef empanadas w/ walnut cream
Empanadas de picadillo en nogada

Palate Cleanser:
Watermelon and tequila mojito granita.
Mojito de tequila y sandia

Meatballs in chipotle chile w/ avocado and tomatillo salsa, and mexican rice.
Albondigas al chipotle con guacasalsa y arroz a la mexicana

Mexican chocolate pudding
Casuelita de crema de chocolate

¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! Book here:

Monday, 17 May 2010

A certifiable night of food, but not a sign of crackers.

I'm unsure whether it was the full moon, or the fabled march madness that made our Lunacy themed night seem particularly mental. It even seemed to rub off on some of our guests, although l'm far too discreet to name and shame.*

Lauren's set certainly helped things along too, as guests entered to find images of themselves distort with a hall of mirrors, then their minds bend with Alice in Wonderland inspired place settings.

As for the food, the first two courses of the night we're a change to the advertised menu due to the late arrival of some of the wild foods l'd wanted to use. The late spurt of cold weather pushed the season back a couple of weeks at least. As l headed off with my basket to collect the young heads of stinging nettles, l found a lot of evidence of the little tinglers bursting into life, but not the difficult teenagers required.

So the first course changed to a tried and tested recipe (and a bit of a favourite at Christmas) was chestnut and chorizo soup with red onion crisps - Nutty, get it? This is a real warming soup and the heat of the chorizo with the comforting heaviness of the chestnuts in the soup feel like a big wooly scarf wrapping the body from the neck down.

The second course was the problematic dish that changed the first first two. It was a shame l couldn't use nettles as l really wanted to use it after learning about how nice, and damn good for you they are on a wild food course in Dorset a few years ago. So out went the feared stingers and in came wild mushrooms in a dish called a Fideau - a Spanish dish (a type of paella). This was served with a large dollop of home-made alioli. I tested this dish on my usual group of baying starlings and the nest bristled so l was eager to unleash it on our guests.

I have to admit to being a little disappointed on the night as it didn't quite live up to the taste of the version l tested. Something seemed to happen when cooking a delicate dish on a larger scale. The tested dish had a wallop of mushroom, and when draped through the mayonnaise became deliciously creamy. I was happy to finally master the art of making homemade mayonnaise after a few disasters experimenting with this white art. Here's my method:

2 egg yolks
1 tsp of english mustard
250 ml groundnut oil
50ml rapeseed oil
salt and pepper

First place the egg yolks, mustard and a drop of groundnut oil in a tall thin container like a jug. It needs to be big enough to just about house the head of a hand blender (the ones you'd normally use for soup) at the bottom. For some reason l've never been able to get a food processor to work, which is probably a blight on the blender! I saw this clip on youtube, tried it, and it has worked every time.

Give it a quick blitz then add slowly the groundnut oil blitzing all the time as you carefully pour. After a while you should be able to pour the oil more freely including the rapeseed oil. I like to add a small amount of rapeseed oil as it gives a little more flavour to the mayonnaise. Add lemon juice and season at the end and your done.

Thankfully the main course stayed true to the plan and bought the mad march hares (actually wild rabbits w/petite poise, cider, lettuce and spiced glazed chicory) to the dinner table. This was a first for us at Toob as l've never prepared or cooked rabbit - although l have caught, skinned and gutted one when l was a vegetarian! I guess it's still a very much a taboo ingredient in Britain and after a quick canvas of the assembled diners it appeared it was many people's first time to eat our furry friends.

I'm sure many of the first timers will championing the merits of le lapin and l certainly intend to carry a carrot shaped torch. It's a delicious meat, and extremely cheap so give it a go if you haven't already. We bought ours online for £3,50 each! The rabbit was braised with a mirepoix and pancetta then stewed in cider for around an hour. The petite poise and lettuce was added just at the end, which added a freshness to contrast with the stewed rabbit. Spiced glazed chicory accompanied the dish which simply involved roasting them in sugar, cointreau, the juice of 2 oranges, and a crushed star anise.

Adding the cointreau to the main meant that some of the citrus flavours from the main was continued into the desert.

For desert a rhubarb fool w/ ginger shortbread almost bought the meal to it's certifiable end - the cointreau making an appearance in the cream. Fully aware that a fool is essentially whipped cream with some sort of fruity accompaniment, l really wanted to craft the pud (mainly because l really enjoy making deserts), into something special. This took a bit of experimentation and a little tinkering to a few recipes l had on my bookcase, the findings…ahem…are as follows:

Ingredients (serves 4 - 6):
500g Rhubarb
1 Ball of stem ginger plus syrup (to taste)
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of ground cinnamon
4tbsp golden caster sugar (to taste)
3 tbsp Cointreau
300ml carton double cream

Firstly cut the rhubarb into approximately 2cm batons and heat over a medium heat with the ginger (not syrup), cinnamon stick and powder, lemon juice, 4tbsp golden caster sugar and a good splash of water. I just undercooked the rhubarb, which took around 5 minutes, being careful to retain the rhubarb's shape and then let it cool in the pan. At this stage l added the syrup from the stem ginger, a little at a time, until the mixture tasted sweet enough while retaining some of the rhubarb's tartness. Be careful not to overpower the mixture with the taste of ginger too. This was left in the fridge to cool while l prepared the cream mixture.

This was created by beating the double cream until it thickened (not too stiff though as it'll come unworkable when serving), then adding cointreau and some of the rhubarb juice to taste.

To serve l strained excess liquid from the rhubarb mixture and reduced it in a saucepan a little. This isn't totally necessary, but a surprising amount of moisture leaks from the mixture, and l didn't want to waste any of it, and i didn't want the presentation of the dish to leak through the layers. This was then added back to the original rhubarb mix. I then placed a layer of rhubarb mix in some small clear herb jars, then piped the cream on top and repeated.

A night themed lunacy couldn't have finished without our guest succumbing to the maddening ways of the green fairy. For this, slightly sorry looking Absinthe jellies were served. I'd wanted to make them extra wobbly and had bought some great edwardian jelly moulds on Ebay, but unfortunately hadn't quite added enough gelatine so they slided into a heap, rather than naughtily standing up and waving to our diners. Still, we weren't short of takers and the actual taste of absinthe jelly is pleasant, much to everyones surprise. I used a recipe posted on the independents website, which can be found here.

Oh, and before we go i have to mention that we had a little surprise up our sleeve for one guest, the lovely Gail Haslam, whom was celebrating a birthday. The following cake was created by our talented Toob (ee) Anna Reid of 'Crumb roll please'.

The idea was to have the cake in sight the whole time, which we then presented half way through the night much to everyones delight and surprise. We're happy to cater for special occasions so if you'd like a cake made let us know and we may be able to help.

All at Toob awoke on Sunday and felt different, almost cleansed. I guess it's good to go nuts now and again.

*Adam, you're absolutely barmy bless you, it wouldn't have been the same without you.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps

It’s nearing the end of March, the sunlight begins to extend the days, heating can be turned down a notch, as the promise of summer starts to yawn into our psyche. Our brains start to flicker with excitement, heads get giddy, and a peculiar furore takes over. Perhaps I’m speaking for myself here, but isn’t it around late March, early April that things go slightly off kilter, a little mad?

The sales cry ‘March Madness’, a whole day is dedicated to hoaxes and practical jokes with April Fools day; the evidence is there and it seems enough to decree that this is silly season.

So just ask yourself a few questions. Ever eaten a tomato like an apple? Walked into a room and thought, what am I doing here? Rang the doorbell to your own house before letting yourself in? If yes, then we urge you to embrace it, nay encourage you to bring out that wacky side at our next supper club, on the 27th March - themed Lunacy!

Yup, we’ve gone stark raving bonkers, and have created a menu that shows we’re not afraid to fool around. This may be subject to change on the night, which will be slight.

Wild Mushroom Tom Yum Soup

2nd Course:
Fettucine w/ stinging nettles three ways

Main Course:
Rabbit w/ petits pois, cider, lettuce and spiced glazed chicory
(Mad as a march hare? Almost)

Rhubarb Fool with ginger shortbread

Absinthe jelly

So are you a few sandwiches short of a picnic? Then book here and prepare to go crazy!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A successful voyage, even a little POSH (Port Out Starboard Home)

So I’ve just about had a week to get this old sea dog acclimatised to land living after our 3rd supper club ‘the ocean commotion’ sailed by with a prevailing wind puffing out the spinnaker.

I really enjoyed the theme this month and think Lauren did a great job of making the ocean theme so immersive. As our guests took their seats, the surrounding jellyfish that twinkled around their heads felt like we were all holding our breaths. Check out her blog by the way, she’s a talented member of the Toob team!

Also, our guests couldn’t have been more enthusiastic – especially Fred with his Gallic passion! Talking of guests, a special thank you should be set aside for Tom, who arrived a little early to find us at Toob scratching our heads over our hifi that was not playing ball. I’m still not quite sure there was a science behind the fix, but Tom enthusiastically twizzled the leads enough to get the damn thing spluttering back to life.

So, with the sound of sea shanties misting our ears, the first course was served; Mussels with a fennel scented broth.

There’s nothing like mussels to give you that sweetness of the sea in your mouth, especially when they’re in season as they are now; plump and juicy. I used a Scandinavian recipe for the mussels, which was to create a broth with Celeriac, fennel bulbs, fennel seeds, a few carrots, home-made fish stock, and a dash of Pernod.

Next was a change to the original menu, which saw the inclusion of Malaysian Prawn Corals, with Crispy Seaweed and Cucumber Salad that replaced the Scallop and Lime soup.

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at creating my own crispy seaweed, and the results are certainly worth the effort. You need a lot of Bok Choy, which you then shred, dry out in the oven (about 5 mins being careful not to burn it) and then deep fry in a flavourless oil like groundnut oil. Finish the crispy seaweed with chopped toasted pine nuts and a little natural cane sugar.

For the Prawn Corals, I made a prawn fritter mix and instead of moulding into careful disks, left the mixture loose, and pressed in large whole raw prawns before dropping into the deep fat fryer. This made them appear like large corals washed up against the crispy seaweed.

Malaysian Prawn Corals Recipe (serves 8)
500g raw prawns, shelled and de-veined
240g fresh bean sprouts, rinsed
120g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 small, fresh red chillies
1tsp of fresh ginger finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp finely chopped spring onions
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten

This recipe makes about 16 corals so to start reserve enough whole prawns to press into the amount of corals you intend to make, then take the remaining amount of prawns and finely chop. Then combine all the ingredients with the chopped prawns and the mixture should be quite wet and loose. Take a heaped tablespoon of the mixture, press in one or two whole prawns then drop into a deep fat fryer or a wok filled with groundnut oil. Once browned, take them out and drain on some kitchen towel and serve.

The main course was Mackerel w/ chorizo, braised leeks and shallot crisps.
Mackerel happens to be one of my favourite fish; I love its intense flavour and think it’s robust enough to be coupled with another strong flavour like chorizo, which is quite unusual. Didn’t get a picture of this one for some unknown reason, may have been something to do with having to get 14 of them out. Tsk, promise to be a better snapper in future – no pun intended for once. It did seem to be the most successful dish of the night though.

To finish things off we served Chocolate delice w/ sesame snaps, salted caramel and home-made barley ice cream.

Salted caramel is one of those things that are so easy to make, but always the show stealer. I worked tirelessly the night before on creating a chocolate mayonnaise that becomes the base of the delice, but ultimately, if I’d just served the ice cream, with salted caramel oozing over the top, everyone would have been more than happy. I loved seeing the small saucepans of salted caramel being finger dipped at the end.

Salted caramel
250g granulated sugar
25ml water
150ml double cream
150g unsalted butter, diced
Maldon salt, to taste

Put the sugar and water in a pan and heat without stirring until the mixture becomes a deep golden caramel colour. Take off the heat and let cool slightly before whisking in the cream, bit by bit, trying not to split it. Then add the butter, little at a time, and then salt the caramel to taste.

The night ended with our guests swaying off into the night with the taste of our fisherman’s friend vodka shot cocktail. It was fun and nice to see everyone that came give it a go. Can’t say it was exactly the taste we wanted to leave in our visitors’ palate, but certainly warmed all of their cockles.

We’d love to see some of our guests pics so don’t forget to get them up on facebook and tag it with ‘trailofourbread’. Especially would like to see some of the people with their face in the mermaid posing gallery.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Ocean Commotion, and getting things ship shape.

It could be the rolling waves, or ill winds, that sea [sic] this months supper club announcement coming a little late, so for that may we firstly apologise.

It's around this time, as captain of the TOOB vessel l start to think about things to do with the ocean. Partly because it's my birthday, and although l don't believe in the stars i know that Aquarius and Pisces are vaguely connected to the ocean. It was also, almost a year ago, that l visited a beautiful Welsh village called Tenby and found the following sign, which has supplied this months theme name - Ocean commotion.

Initially, l loved the idea of a landmark having such a funny and intriguing name so i had to snap it. I then proceeded on a voyage of discovery to find out what this mysterious landmark could be. Imagine my disappointment and finding the name belonged to a child's indoor activity centre; l guess not much happens in Tenby. Still, a great name.

Our next supper club is on the 27th February and is themed Ocean commotion, l'm sure you got that already.

So get your sea legs on, shout yo ho ho, and prepare for the romance of the sea to excite the depths of your appetite. The menu may be subject to a few changes as we've not fully tested all of it yet, but it won't be far of the following:

Ocean Commotion Menu

Scallop cream soup w/lime and deep fried chervil

Mussels in a fennel scented broth

Mackerel w/chorizo braised leeks and shallot crisps

Chocolate fondant with salted caramel and malted barley ice cream.

Fisherman's Friend Vodka Cocktail

Fancy taking a deep on our ocean odyssey? Email to make an enquiry.

Just thought we'd add a picture of our practice efforts to warm your cockles, or sea bass...which doesn't have quite the same ring.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Toob, the evil temptress

It only took our 2nd Supper Club before we decided to get evil on our guests, the theme being temptation, and Toob assuming the role of that wicked whisper in your ear.

It seemed the temptation menu had put a fire in our guests belly too, as Jamie and Agatha arrived with some home brewed hooch in their pockets for later. In fact it was a lovely home-made strawberry vodka, using strawberry's they'd grown in their garden. Thanks Jamie, we very much approve of our guests bringing gifts!

The first course was a slight amend from the menu we posted previously, as l trailed a black bean soup that used coke as a stock. I used half coke, that had been used for basting a ham and half vegetable stock with black beans, cumin, chillies and few other bits and pieces. The soup had an unusual sweetness from the coke, but ultimately I found it lacked the wow factor for the amount of cooking it required. Instead I hit on the idea of creating a kind of ying and yang soup which combined a classic black bean soup with a Tuscan white bean soup. By pouring them into the bowls at the same time it pretty much created a soup split in two. For some reason I couldn't help demeaning this in my head by singing 'Ebony and ivory' by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. O no, it's in my head again as I write.

The next course was a Mac n Cheese that I adapted slightly from a Simon Hopkinson recipe which can be seen here.

The inclusion of tomatoes really is a nice touch and I added some extra mature Red Leicester cheese for colour, along with some mature cheddar and a slight amount of gorgonzola for a creamy kick.

The third course of Sticky Ribs with Coleslaw really was the surprise winner of the

night, and a course I mostly picked due to the Adam and Eve connection. See what I did there? Aye?

It was the one course that most people insisted I gave the recipe for as they left so here is my take on BBQ ribs. This should serve 8 people comfortably:


24 Pork Belly Ribs

Sticky Sauce:

Tomato ketchup 400ml
Worcester Sauce 2 tbsp
Black Treacle 2 tbsp
Cider Vinegar 180ml
White pepper 1 ½ tsp
Ground cloves 1 ½ tsp
5 cloves of garlic crushed.

The Rub:

2 tbsp of Paprika
2 heaped tsps of English Mustard
4 heaped tsps of dried oregano
2 tbsp of sea salt flakes

Firstly you need to cook the ribs in salted water on a gentle simmer for 30minutes. The ribs should then be allowed to dry and then placed in a shallow dish containing the rub and liberally covered. Then dip the ribs in the sticky sauce (all the mixture needs combining) and then put them on a large baking tray and cook for 40-45 minutes, basting a few times if they look a little dry.

By the time the main course arrived I think the evil menu had started to take its toll on our guests...that and the extra portions of the ribs that most people managed to tuck away! Still, I can whole-heartedly recommend triple cooked chips as the best way to make chips. I've been doing this for a while now and the results really are worth the effort.

Lastly, and my personal favourite, was the Treacle Tart with clotted cream and raspberry coulis. This is a recipe I've been tinkering with for a while, but the key to making the treacle bit nice and light is to add lemon juice. I was inspired to do this by a Heston Blumenthal's recipe, but personally I found the amount he adds over powers the treacle. I know, I'm not sure where I get the gall to challenge it, but hey...personally I found it too lemony so cut the amount of juice added by half. Nurr.

I really enjoyed our second supper club, it feels like it's getting better and better, and in no small way it's due to our guests that are just so nice to have over, and help from friends. So a big thanks to Lauren, Llinos, Ella, Anna, Simon, Jenny, Simon, Gail, Jon, Nathalie, Matt, Jaime, Agatha, and Nicola.

Our next theme is The Sea...just for a sneaky peaky. x

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Temptation; we're the devil on your shoulder

Knowing that most of us will be straying into a new decade, with thoughts of reform and attempts to be less noughties, we thought we'd see in the new year by offering a menu that acts like the friend you mum wished you didn't have.

On the 30th January, it's our 2nd supper club and the theme is TEMPTATION.

With your new year resolutions probably starting to wobble, we thought it would be nice to create a menu so glutenous, so naughty, so damn right wicked that you'll think to hell with the diet, and damnation to no diary. After all, it's far more positive to take on more with the coming of a new year, than to give up the things you like...isn't it?

So here's the menu, which may be subject to a few tweaks, but not anything significant. If you don't eat meat, or have any allergies please look at the menu before booking and let us know as we may be able to help.

The Evil Menu

Black bean soup with cornbread

Mac 'n' cheese

BBQ styled pork ribs with coleslaw

Steak burger with deep fried quails egg, triple fried chips and a trident of sauces

Treacle tart with clotted cream pots

Are you tempted? Email for bookings.

Monday, 4 January 2010

As your festive feelings ebb, we add a little more festive cheer

We'll, that's what we'd like to think...but the truth is we were a little lazy at adding a few more pictures of the creations made for our first supper club. So here they are:

Think you can appreciate the folded reindeers a little more from this pic.

and Laurens laurel, nice idea!

If you'd like to see more of what Lauren does check out her very own blog here: