Sunday 24 October 2010

This and that, bits and bobs etc…

What with all the work involved in The Montpelier Basement, I’ve found it pretty hard to find time to keep up with the blog posts. Seems this supper club gig is really time intensive!
But rest assured, in the background I’m still ‘out there’ doing all the same foodie stuff, eating in restaurants, cooking at home and falling out of bars…a lot – I just haven’t been writing about it as much…. which come to think of it, is no fun for anyone dammit, you want…no, you DEMAND to know what’s going on…. and I hear you, my beautiful, intelligent readers…. For indeed you are all beautiful and extremely intelligent and I am listening, like an unusual Essex-bloke-shaped radio antenna. I hear your plaintive cries for information reaching my furrowed brow, bombarding my brain with pleas…. I am attuned, and I’m going to give you what you want! Oh yeah, I’m going to squash a load of stuff into this post…. pack it, squeeze it all in until something breaks, or I get bored…and we’re off!!!!

First up, the next Montpelier Basement supper is being held on Saturday 30th October. The inaugural event seemed to be a massive success (*taps nose* check out Xanthe Clay’s column in The Telegraph next Saturday – say no more, say no more). We’re sold out already. However, we’ve worked out some future dates for the diary; Saturday 13th November and Saturday 27th November. Both dates are being booked up fast, so if you want to come, email

What will we be serving up at the next event on the 30th?

Here’s the menu….

Arrival drinks and nibbles

Bertinet bread and West country butter

Pumpkin and sage soup with deep fried sage, brown butter and chilli

Baked Cornish haddock with pumpkin crust. (Vegetarian option tbc)

Onglet with pumpkin jam, greens and polenta chips
Mushroom and Ogleshield tatin with thyme, chestnuts and squash

Spiced pumpkin and pecan cake with maple mascarpone, honey and toasted nuts.


As it’s Halloween weekend, we’ve tried to feature pumpkin in the menu a fair bit. Mainly because it’s orange and errr scary.

Moving on…..

Lets talk about Elizabeth David. Rightfully considered to be one of the most influential post war food writers and cooks Britain has ever produced, she pretty much singlehandedly shaped the face of what we eat and in some ways still influences what we eat today. So basically as important as it gets. Aaaaaaand, until I started writing my food blog almost two years ago, I’d never heard of her. There I’ve said it! I didn’t know who Elizabeth David was; fellow foodies come hither and flay me with chains, then squirt me liberally with lemon juice (Sicilian of course).
I’d like to say it’s because I was just too ‘into Escoffier to have time for her man’, or something. But no, I was just blissfully ignorant. Yet, gradually I became aware of her and her works. As they were entirely text (and being from Essex I’m all about the pictures) I always just scanned them and never really took them in. Until a few weeks ago, when I was sent *drum roll purlease* ‘At Elizabeth David’s Table’, a collection of her more everyday recipes, all with glorious food porn photos of what the grub is actually supposed to look like. So now, when I’m knocking out a quick Perdrix a l’auvergnate, I know exactly what it’s supposed to look like.
The interesting thing about this book, for someone like me who is less accustomed to Elizabeth David’s work, is how ahead of her time she was and how obviously influential she has been. Nearly all of the recipes could have been written yesterday, and considering how hard the exotic ingredients must have been to source in a dreary, just released from the shackles of wartime rationing Britain, the book is not only a cracking collection of her recipes, but a fascinating insight into our country’s food heritage.

I cooked a couple of things from the book (had to try it out of course), and the results were pretty good. Although, a quick pasta dish, Fettuccine alla marinara was fairly unspectacular as far as pasta goes.

I was much more impressed with the coffee ice cream recipe (which incidentally is something ‘E’ absolutely loves) and the classic chocolate mousse. Results for both of these were good, and being Elizabeth David, the recipes are beautifully written.

But enough about the past, now let’s talk about the future, in the shape of Stevie Parle, who aged just 24 has managed to cram a ridiculously impressive list of restaurants onto his CV. He has recently been awarded Young Chef Of The Year by Observer Food Monthly, as well as running the London pop up Moveable Restaurant AND has now opened his own restaurant, The Dock Kitchen…. oh…in between this it seems like he’s travelled everywhere. As such, we should all hate him with a fixated jealous seething anger, but I was sent his cookbook ‘My Kitchen, Real Food From Near And Far’ quite a while ago, and this is the thing…. all of the recipes I’ve tried so far are frigging amazing! (Chana Masala, I’m looking at you baby). So he’s grudgingly forgiven, frigging overachiever that he is.
Anyway, we were so impressed we had a bit of an evening where we cooked a few dishes from it, all were new to me and all were superb.

Apart from the aforementioned Chana Masala, a chickpea curry which achieves the rather enviable double whammy of being both delicious and cheap, we also made Avial, which was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever eaten; a thick coconut, yoghurt and vegetable paste, it looked utterly bizarre but was strangely tasty.

While we were at it, we made our own chapattis from a recipe in the book, which were surprisingly simple to knock up. Finally we made a fresh ginger and tamarind pickle. This particular accompaniment seemed to involve a hell of a lot of work for the end result of a small pot of pickle, but wow! It was bloody gorgeous. The strange thing is, when I tasted it, I realised immediately that I’ve encountered versions of it before in a hundred Indian restaurants, but I’ve never known what it was and it always tasted disgusting. Not this though, it was fresh, vibrant and punchy – I can’t recommend it enough.
So in conclusion, if you don’t have it – Stevie Parle’s book is really worth picking up.

Finally, the other night ‘E’ and I attended a Bristol supper club run by Sam J Leach. We’ve visited before and I wrote about it here, the food was cracking and when we heard he was holding another event, we signed up straightaway.

As before, the food was superb, and now having had a go at running our own supper club we have a bit more of an appreciation of how much bloody hard work it all is. There were a couple of truly standout courses, the duck heart, smoked mash and beetroot was delicious and beautifully presented, but what really blew me away (and everyone else it seemed), was the dessert.

A toffee apple hollowed out and filled with custard. Sam had cleverly worked out how to achieve this, and the ‘oooh’s and ‘ahhhh’s from our fellow diners that filled the room as everyone broke through the outer caramel shell and discovered the custard filling in unison, were a delight to hear. Stunning and extremely clever. Bravo.

There’s a hell of a lot more that I’ve eaten, cooked and drank lately that I’d love to share with you, (An excellent lunch at Polpetto in Soho, a not so great burger but great beer at Draft House Tower Bridge and a book launch at Moti Mahal spring to mind) but I’m acutely aware that too much information and peoples attentions start to wander. Yes I’m talking to you at the back.

So until next time, and do come to our supper club if you can, we'd love to see you.


Sharmila said...

That Steve Parle book does look good - interesting clutch of Indian recipes in there it seems.

My mum used to cook avial when I was little, and I hated it, primarily because my sister used to say it looked like, erm, cat sick. However, now I'm older and wiser, I've come to love it.

Dan said...

Sharmila - It's a cracking book featuring recipes from all over the place, a real eclectic mix. All we've tried have been delicious. Cat sick - bleurgh, glad I never read that when I actually made it! It was bloody nice, just strange.

Anonymous said...

You've convinced me to buy the Stevie Parle cookbook and made me want toffee apples filled with custard. They look incredible.

Anonymous said...

What the hell. Who the what. Why the where. Stunned by that toffee apple custard concoction. Amazing.

Also, that Steve Parle book sounds pretty fantastic.

In addition, I've never heard of Elizabeth David either.

And in conclusion, congrats on the roaring success of your supper club.

Emma Jay said...

I am definitely getting the Steve Parle book - I shall add it to the cacophany of titles that I also never cook from (I just read the recipes and look at the pics). I rely on Elly and Sharmila to feed me now and again.

Unknown said...

So glad to hear your supper club is going well Dan - you deserve it! I can imagine it would be very time consuming as well.

Dan said...

Ginandcrumpets - The Stevie Parle book is cracking, and ask @samjleach on Twitter how he achieved the toffee apples, it was really impressive.

Feedetgastro - Never heard of Lizzy David? what? the horror!! errr....Thanks very much!

Emma Jay - Always the best way to get someone else to feed you.

Gourmet Chick - Thanks!! It's going extremely well, fully booked for the next three dates! Yep, it's time consuming, but so far I'm loving it.

Mark Taylor said...

Dan - totally agree about the Stevie Parle book. One of the best this year without a doubt and I want to cook everything in there. Will achieve that eventually.

Dan said...

Mark Taylor - Would love to know how you get on with that Mark, we've hit the Indian type dishes first and have loved everything we've cooked so far. Finding it to be a really inspiring book.

Mark Taylor said...

Dan, just cooked that chana masala dish and it really is the business, isn't it? Like you, I'm kinda forgiving old Stevie boy for being such an overachiever. Steamed ginger pudding here I come...