Menu coming together….February 2015

Just over a fortnight to go before the next supper at Macknade, so I have been finalising the menu. The weather seems to be turning, the sun working hard to warm us up and the days certainly longer. Hooray! I am not a winter lover and am coming to the end of my love affair with stews and braises, slow roasts and pies. It’s time to lighten up.

At the moment the menu looks like this, but I am still playing around with pudding ideas, so it might end up tweaked a bit….always the fun bit ‘playing’ as it means we get to eat lots of different versions and combinations at home. Perks for the family…

Roast heritage carrots, pumpkin and beets with Duddleswell sheep’s cheese from the High Weald dairy….just over the Kent/Sussex border
Cod and cockles with thyme butter – thank you Rob at the Compasses Inn for the inspiration!
Roast venison haunch with haggis and kale – we had this on Burns night with a leg of Muntjac and it was so utterly scrumptious that I wanted to share the love
Rhubarb, baked custards and ginger crunch…..or will it be Blood Orange curd tart with poached rhubarb…..or buttermilk puddings and ginger snaps…….I’ll let you know!

As ever, if you have specific dietary requirements then I will always try and accommodate them if you let me know when you book. And don’t forget, we’ll be serving a Kentish sparkler to start off the evening, thanks to Ben at Gusbourne Estate.

Menu now finalised

After a brilliant few days in southern Spain it’s a delight to come home to acres of blues sky, long may it continue! I have it on good authority from Susanna at The Good’s Shed that with all this lovely weather there will be Kentish asparagus in time for the end of April and so it features on the menu for the next supper. Having practically lived on wonderful Serrano ham for the last few days I wanted to bring that flavour to this menu, with an English cured meat which Macknade stock. The Mediterranean theme continues with a bouillabaisse and with my take on Spanakopita which uses the abundant nettles and wild garlic which have also been flourishing whilst I was away. To round it all off a seasonal crème brûlée with some local rhubarb – not ‘forced‘ in a darkened shed, but picked from outside my back door – couldn’t get much more local or seasonal than that!

Menu ideas forming

Only a few weeks until the next supper and so the menu starts to come together. I am often asked where my inspiration comes from? Do I use recipes? How do I decide?

The answers are as varied as the questions, but essentially I am inspired by the place that I live and by the seasons, the weather and the food that is abundant. At the moment everything is bursting into life, in the fields (lamb), in the woodlands (wild garlic) in hedgerows and roadsides (Alexanders, chickweed, nettles) and so it goes on. This time last year I was lucky enough to spend two memorable days in the company of three amazing and inspirational wild-food specialists. Mark Williams (aka @markwildfood) who runs guided walks and cook-outs all about foraging from his idyllic base in Galloway, Christoffer Hruskova, Michelin starred Danish chef, previously of North Road in London and now developing an extraordinary ice cream range. And finally the dry, droll and very talented Gary Goldie who made is name at Ardanaiseig and as a former Scottish chef of the year, and now has his name over the door in Oban at “Gary Goldie at the Queens”.
Between the four of us and over two days we picked over 25 different wild food species and gathered ‘spoots’ at low tide – razor clams to you and me. And on the Sunday evening of that extraordinary weekend we cooked a 16 course tasting menu and I learned more techniques in one day than in the preceding year.
So I will be drawing on those memories and ideas, but as I am currently in Andalusia I am tempted too to let some Spanish influences creep in… if we can just find octopus on the North Kent Coast…..

2014 supperclubs are go!

It seems like an absolute age since the last supper in early November with Christmas festivities followed by appalling and seemingly endless rain. So I am really looking forward to the first supper of 2014 at Macknade on Saturday 22nd Feb. The menu is now set and booking will open on Sunday. Tickets are £35 per person for four courses and BYO. I can’t wait to greet old friends and meet new guests.

Menu now set for Sunday 29th September at GB Pizza

I am really looking forward to popping up in a new venue at the end of the month and here’s the menu. Please note this event will not be BYO as GB Pizza is a fully licensed venue. Following requests for more dishes to suit vegetarians and non meat eaters, and to celebrate the abundance of great fish and vegetables that we have at this time of the year  I have designed a slightly different menu from usual and each course will be made up of large platters to share. After my tests in the wood fired oven at GB Pizza I had to sneak the lamb cutlets on though, it would have been criminal not to!20130815-185313.jpg








Trying out the wood fired oven. YUM!

As I mentioned previously the emwilco supperclub is going on the road again at the end of September, this time to Margate. The menu will be entirely shaped by what I can cook in GB Pizza‘s ‘bijou’ kitchen and using their wood burning pizza oven. I went and had fun trying it out earlier this week so I can assure you it will be delicious.20130815-185307.jpg

We tried roasted peaches served with English air dried ham, mozzarella and rocket. Then a mixture of clams, mussels, prawns and scallops roasted with lemon and garlic which were seriously yummy, smokey and toothsome. Next I roasted a Moroccan spiced, boned leg of lamb with little waxy Anya potatoes tucked underneath and finally some lemony miniature lamb chops which took just four minutes in the fiercely hot oven, oh my they were good. It was such a treat and huge thanks to Rachel and Lisa who are the brilliant GB Pizza ladies. This is going to be a good one!Roast peach, buffalo mozzarella and English air-dried ham with rocket



Other than location, the other main difference will be that for each course a selection of dishes will be presented as sharing platters and there will definitely be plenty to keep non-meat eaters happy. As GB Pizza are a licensed venue this will not be a BYO event, they will be offering carafes of wine and their usual selection of beers for sale on the night. Booking however will be by the usual route and will open a fortnight before.

Trying to match the seasons

I heard something that made me laugh today, something along the lines of not choosing what to wear today based on what you wore yesterday, such is the fickle nature of our summer. Yesterday I was roasting gently on No.2 court at Wimbledon (occasionally wandering out for some food and wishing it could be better….) Today I have shivered and put on a cardigan and had to shut the back door, which usually stays propped open from May to October.
So planning a menu which is designed to be seasonal and sourced locally can be quite a challenge, when who knows what the temperature will be in just over a fortnight when I pop-up again at Macknade for the 6th (or is it 7th?) emwilco supperclub.
Based on what I have seen lately and what I feel like eating around now, the first draft of the menu looks a bit like this:

Potted duck and toasted sourdough
Mussels with fennel and saffron, roasted new potatoes and ailiolli
Gooseberry and elderflower fool with rhubarb jelly
Selection of Kent cheeses, homemade oatcakes and chutney

It may change a little over the next week (especially if by the 20th we all need to wear our thermals…)and before booking opens on the 8th, so keep watching!

Menu finalised for 4th May

The weather finally seems to be making an attempt at Spring and there has certainly been some rapid growth in the garden so hopefully the fresh, fabulous produce we are all waiting for will soon appear. I had hoped to be able to include asparagus on the menu but there is very little sign of it so far. If some does pop up over the next fortnight then I may well tweak the menu, but for now our greenery will come in the form of a vivid nettle and wild garlic soup which has become a favourite of mine and of which there is plenty! To follow, a rich crab tart based on a recipe that one of the chefs at Quaglinos gave me years ago when I worked there. I used to do a twelve hour shift on Fridays and Saturdays, starting at lunchtime and getting home early enough to pick up the next day’s papers as I drove through Camden. Often wrapped up in a piece of greaseproof paper in my bag would be a hastily (and cheekily..) grabbed slice of crab tart from the kitchen. I hope to recreate the flavours for you and memories for me, wonderfully crisp pastry and warm filling using the freshest crabs from West Whelks in Whitstable. The main course will be lamb, dainty cutlets with new potatoes and purple sprouting. To round it all off a rich chocolate pot and gorgeous chewy Amaretti biscuit an Ottolenghi favourite of mine.

I hope to see you there, booking will open on Sunday.

Little tweaks to the menu

Having set the menu I tried out my old fave the rhubarb and saffron tart and rather sadly found it wanting. So if it isn’t good enough for me then it isn’t good enough for all my lovely guests. Today I have been playing with alternatives, including a steamed sponge with a rhubarb and cardamom ‘jam’ which was sooooo delicious, but this little beauty won.

A rhubarb and frangipane tart which will come with Kentish créme fraiche.

March menu shaping up

It’s at this sort of time a few weeks before the supperclub that I have to try and narrow down my list of possibles into a coherent menu so that guests can see what they might be getting and start to get excited. March is tricky though with the ‘hungry gap’, familiar to people who buy their veg locally rather than cellophane wrapped from the supermarket and flown in from Israel, Kenya, Morocco….It really isn’t asparagus season yet despite the Valentine’s promotions in supermarkets all last week.

It takes imagination and a whole lot of willpower to look at the kale, swedes, parsnips or leeks yet again and decide that yes indeed you wouldn’t prefer a bundle of fine French beans tossed with butter, garlic and black pepper. But as you know, my supperclub ethos is to celebrate the best of what there is locally and seasonally and so I will persevere.

My long list so far includes:
Cullen skink
Savoury Pumpkin tart with hazelnuts and mustard greens
Orange curd tart
Steamed pudding
Chicken liver parfait with rhubarb pickle
Chocolate tarts with whisky caviar
Beetroot soup shots
Risotto, roasted squash and deep fried sage leaves
Spelt stuffed cabbage leaves with roasted tomato sauce
Honey pannacotta with star anise
Wild boar with polenta and kale
Pavlova with rhubarb, rose and pistachio
Cauliflower velouté with scallops or spiced roasted cauliflower
Wild boar ragu with pappardelle
Game pie
Panacotta with blood orange confit

As you can see I still need to work on editing….it is only a four course dinner, however choice is a good thing and I will work hard over the next week to hone it down and my family will be your guinea pigs.

It’s a tough life for some.