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.