Last Saturday a crowd of keen foodies gathered at Macknade for the second supper club. It was lovely to meet so many new people, many of whom didn’t know about the beautiful cafe that has been created within the most characterful part of the ever changing Macknade site. Thanks again to all at Macknade for being so welcoming and accommodating and especially to Stefano who was able to join us this time.
Once again we were blessed with beautiful evening sunshine and we set up a long table almost the length of the cafe and dressed with fresh flowers from the garden.
The wonderful Ottolenghi inspired salad calls for a lot of quick blanching and cooling of beans and peas so that you end up with a wonderfully bright green, crunchy dish.
The starter was wild rabbit terrine, with cornichons from Opies in nearby Sitttingbourne and served with my homemade rye sourdough.
Then onto roast quail from Godmersham Game, marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, sumac, garlic and pomegranate molasses, served whole on platters with baba ganoush, which I was particularly proud to be able to make with Kent grown aubergines, sourced from Canterbury’s Goods Shed.
Pudding was a super rich, flourless chocolate torte with a layer of pralinéed almonds giving great texture and flavour. I served it with cherry compote, grated dark chocolate and the most sublime vanilla ice cream from Simply Ice cream which is made by the very talented Sarah Newall. I have to say the texture of Sarah’s ice cream is amazing, like velvet, and even when it warmed up and the spare (for which read chef’s) portion had sat in the kitchen for a good while it kept its shape, not turning into a puddle as so many others would.
After the chocolate, which I realised afterwards was in some ways a deconstructed and retrouvé Black Forest gateau, there was a small breather before I sent out the cheeseboards, a selection of four locally made cheeses, homemade oatcakes
and homemade fresh gooseberry pickle (for which there were requests to take a jar home, so watch this space….)
When you have been planning the menu, thinking about the recipes, sourcing ingredients and then cooking on the night, one of the biggest kicks is this – to see the smiling faces and a line of clean plates!
Thanks to everyone who came, to all of the suppliers and producers whose raw ingredients inspire me and also a big thank you to my friend Olly who came along and was a fantastic, faultless sous chef!
This time next week I will be loading the car with all of the goodies for the diners at supperclub no.2.
As part of my (ahem) selfless ongoing research for brilliant local food and drink I loaded up my basket at Macknade today with a range of cheeses to taste and select for next week. One which I have seen often and never bought before is Ellie’s Goat, a wonderful fresh cheese, similar in consistency to the cheese I learnt to make at River Cottage and very mild – a goat’s cheese perhaps for people who don’t think they like it? I had hoped to make some cheese for next week but time has run away from me. Anyhow with such a lovely product made a couple of miles away it’s not at all necessary.
I discovered the Ellie’s Dairy blog where I then found that the Kelly’s goat which featured on the menu in May is made with their milk too – no wonder it’s so good!
I can’t tell you how exciting it was to arrive at Lounge on the Farm late on Friday evening and come across this blackboard as we explored the site. (We can put aside the fact that my charming children, when asked to comment on whether there was anything notable about this sign said first “Wow! Stefan Gates!!”….well fair enough I suppose)
The excitement gradually built to nerves over the course of Saturday morning and then something approaching sheer terror by 1.30 when I had to go and get my microphone, cross my fingers and hope for an audience!
Having sent through my recipes and requirements in advance the brilliant Alan, a home economist who has done this sort of thing a thousand times before, had everything prepped and ready to set up the demo – even down to making up chappati dough so I could utter the immortal line “here’s some I prepared earlier” – although as I am useless fibber I said “here’s some that someone else kindly made earlier”. His skill becomes particularly apparent when you look at how beautiful it all looks in the clever overhead mirror.
Then it was off to get a ‘Madonna-mike” as it became known, and with a quick pep talk “just have fun!” and a big hug from the real star of the afternoon Mr Stefan Gates, it was kick off. I made the mackerel starter from Supperclub number one – without the gratin as it would have taken way too long.
Next I made a Goan fish curry, with a beautiful bream, cut into smallish steaks and bones still in, packed full of chillies and tamarind paste served with some fresh chappatis. My greatest delight was the queue of people, most of them children (so not all down to festival induced munchies) who piled into the spice with no fear and came back for more.
The full recipes are on the “chef chat” pages of the new Eat Drink Kent website – would love to hear if you give them a try.
Did I have fun? yes…eventually. Would I do it again? Maybe if I was asked to. Do I prefer cooking without narrating? Yes definitely (which as anyone who knows me well will tell you, comes as a bit of a surprise!)
Starting the supper club is a first, tentative, step on what I hope will be an exciting journey towards more full-time food based employment. I have no fixed timetable and am happy for this journey to take a while. I was delighted then that before I had even delivered the first dinner, Rob aka “Farmhouse Cooks” and one of the founders of Lounge on the Farm, was in touch to ask if I wanted a spot at this year’s festival. With the proverb “Fortune Favours the brave” in mind I agreed and so here I am, two days away and starting to get a little nervous.
Having never cooked for an audience, let alone in a tent, in a field at a music festival, the key will be to keep things simple. I also want to keep true to the ’emwilco supperclub’ ethos of local and seasonal, whilst allowing the international influence to come through too.
Having chatted to Clare who is producing the ‘Kitchen’ tent, and considering what the other chefs will be doing, we agreed that it would be good to focus on fish. The starter at the last supper club was a hit so that’s one dish sorted, Pan fried mackerel fillet with beetroot/horseradish ‘slaw and a zingy sorrel salad. Next choice uses local fish but with spicy punch. Goan fish curry, steamed rice and chapatis – I love making these, the simplest of breads. There’s theatre in the final stage as you place them directly on an open flame and they puff up and blacken, all from a little wholemeal flour and water.
If you’re going to be at LOTF do pop in and say hello, I’m on at 2pm on Saturday.