Announcing my first supper club of 2015!

Orthodox Greek Feasting Menu

Clapham, London

Sunday 25th January

I thought I was done with supper clubs but it turns out that all I needed was a little inspiration. Having nearly, but not quite, made it to Athens to see the January Christmas festivities (Orthodox Calendar etc), so instead, I would love to invite everyone back to Clapham for a Christmas Greek Orthodox Supperclub evening on Sunday January 25th .

The Menu will be based a traditional Greek Christmas Feasting Menu (yes I’m aware that January 25th is way after the Greek Orthodox Christmas but why let pedantry get in the way of a good idea).

Please come along with your best Christmas jumpers, an empty, freshly detoxed, stomach and, as always, a bottle of whatever tickles your fancy.

Proposed menu is below, and in keeping with tradition (mine, not Christmas), seats are still limited to twelve so let me know if you or any friends would like to come to:

Closer to the time I’ll send out details of the address in Clapham and the full menu with intermediary courses included. Doors open at 6pm with an aperitif and nibbles provided before dinner. Dinner starts at 6.30pm prompt and the suggested donation for the evening is £30. As ever, the emphasis is on good food and good company so please come along willing to make new friends, if only for the evening. It is Christmas, afterall :-)

Christmas in January
Sunday 25th January

Proposed menu is as follows:


Homemade saffron bread and pine nut pesto, topped with fresh cheese, honey and praline



7 hour stuffed lamb wrapped in grape leaves served lemon butter potato and spun aubergine


Goat’s curd filo, baked pearl onions and spiced aubergine crisps



Poached quince, cinnamon syrup, walnut ice-cream and a filo custard square

Additional intermediary courses will be served on the night, so please let me know about any dietary issues or allergies.

Places for 12

Places for 12

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Thursday 13 November to Saturday 15 November

The Happy Coconut is a Malaysian pop-up restaurant scheduled for one weekend only!
If you’ve been to the Home from Home supperclubs then you’ll be aware that this is a long anticipated (for me) pop-up cooking a selection of Malaysian dishes close to my heart.

All our dishes are wheat-free and nearly all are gluten free, because we’ve stayed true to the traditional ingredients of Malaysian. We’ve kept the menu limited to ensure that the food is good but let us know what you think on Twitter: @Cooksmiths:

Proposed Menu
Thursday 13 November to Saturday 15 November

the Dipping course
Small plates to dip and share between friends, or to keep all for yourself
– Rice paper parcels of Asian greens with a warm coconut lime dip £5
– A selection of soy marinated chicken served with fresh satay sauce £5.60

the Laksa course
Malaysia’s world famous coconut noodle soup loved by millions, and made in our signature style
– Classic laksa with roast chicken, prawns and cockles, served with a side of our house chilli sambal £11
– Aromatic laksa with ginger, aubergine and green bean, served with a side of our house chilli sambal £9.50

the Happy course
A perfect balance of sweetness and richness as only the Malaysians know how
– Coconut cheesecake with poached caramel peanuts £5
– Hot Chocolate-Milo pudding with condensed milk ice-cream £5 (contains barley)
Stovetop masala chai – £2
Mulled ginger beer – £2
Tamarind and sugarcane rum punch – £5
Beer and wine, chosen to match the flavours will also be available on the night
Menu and prices are indicative, minor adjustments may be needed on the night.

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Tale of two birthdays – continued

Tale of two birthdays – continued
I love birthdays. Birthdays are the best excuse for making cake that I know. And it’s like bottling happiness. Presenting to people a birthday cake that you made for them, is like popping the cork to the bottle, it’s the most surefire way of making people happy. The last time I made my mum smile is when I made her a birthday cake.

Making food for birthdays also gives you the excuse to go the extra mile. You’re not going to spend the day making a cake just for anyone or for any day. But when it’s a good friend and it’s their birthday , then there’s something rather satisfying about spending all day in the kitchen making something special for them, even if it does get gobbled up as the same time it takes you to eat your evening tea.

It’s perhaps of a discipline thing? In fact, the reality is that like I can’t be bothered to spend my Sunday stuck in the kitchen unless the weight of expectation bears down on me?
It was only last month that I discovered that the weight of expectation that bears down the heaviest, when it is that of your own birthday and moreover, of all the guests you’ve invited, have one way or other endured many of the burdens associated with all the supperclubs and practice dinners that you’ve put on.

So my birthday… I had the same idea as for Freddie’s. I wanted to be a guest not a cook and although I wanted to make something delicious for the party, I didn’t want anything as formal as a supperclub. SO I figured a DIY BBQ where people help themselves to salads and cook their own meat as they want it would be the perfect solution.
And Terry helped, that much must be admitted, so all the work of putting together six salads was reduced into something manageable, enjoyable so. And when nobody actually did grasp the DIY nature of the BBQ, Terry took up the role of head chef at the BBQ and got to work feeding the masses. He also had a pervasive influence over the theme of the food on offer, which mostly ended up being Thai, with Red curry sausages that we made ourselves, lemongrass pork patties, chicken wing satay on the BBQ, and salads like mango and noodle, edamame and coconut, Thai basil potato salad etc. Don’t ask me how it happened – there was no explicit request or suggestion but probably just enthusiastic agreement to any vaguely Thai suggestion that I made.

5 Salads and BBQ Pizza toppings are ready to go...

5 Salads and BBQ Pizza toppings are ready to go…

Having sorted out the food element, next year I might focus on the fun element. At times it did feel like I was just running a soup kitchen.
Birthday 2 Birthday 3

Birthday 4

I did eventually get round to enjoying my birthday – pub at the end of the day helped out with that. Each year the lesson is the same. Don’t cook for your own birthday- and each year I forget. So until next year guys. x

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Tale of two birthdays

So not very long ago, a good friend asked me to cater for his birthday: Freddie, who of course is widely remembered for his star front of house turn at a few of my supperclub dinners, and who along with a few other friends, working super- (semi) professionally to put all the food on the plate and get it all served to the guests piping hot.

What they lacked in experience they made up in personality! I think. But anyway, its probably not for me to harp on about lack of experience…

So I was not only flattered but rather obliged when Freddie suggested that I help him out with dinner. The whole set-up was rather different from the supperclubs that I’d managed previously. For one, it was more akin to an casual summer BBQ than anything as formal as the 6 course + petit fours supper club that I’ve done before. Secondly I was a guest so I’d be damned if I was going to follow the format of the supperclubs which see me working and clearing up to 1am.

So this time I took inspiration from an old time favourite – Ottelenghi who more than any one I see as writing great recipes for party food. I remember seeing a recipe of Ottelenghi’s, placing a large serving bowl of quail for everyone to tuck into and tear apart with their fingers which I thought would be fantastic for Freddie’s birthday. Only proviso being that the event was really more of an English summer garden party (with perhaps more booze and a little less decorum ) so I wanted to stay true to that style of event and Ottelenghi’s quail recipe was too Middle Eastern to work. So instead I roasted it off for 12 minutes with a lovely brown sugar and mustard glaze and piled them high as you like in a bowl topped with crispy streaky bacon, dressed asparagus, spiced walnuts (which due to the comments they received a special shout out has to go to the Martha Stewart Recipe I used) and a fantastically sharp sorrel sauce which usually goes with cod but worked brilliant to lighten and freshen the roast quail. Disclaimer: some of these photos are taken on my blackberry others on an iPhone (I’ll leave you guess which is which). Suffice to say: Blackberry, you need to sort it out…

Quail with sorrel sauce

Quail with sorrel sauce

Finger food

Finger food

I won’t go into the palaver that went into us scaling down the planned hog roast to a joint in the oven. To be fair “joint” doesn’t do it justice, it was like a Jurassic sized femur of hog which could have fed the fifteen of us, eight times over (so I’ll leave to you to guess why we decided against the whole hog roast). I will say with pride however, that I dealt with this change of plan quite admirable and after scoring the skin, I poured boiling water over the scores and salted it in a way that Delia Smith would have been quite satisfied. And with these simple actions and an 8 hour slow roast in the oven, there was a quite delectable main fit for any fancy restaurant and even one of my supperclubs. Salads were entirely courtesy of Ottelenghi’s recipes, I and 14 others can vouch that the new potato pesto salad (half the basil replaced with parsley) and the roast cauliflower salad recipes (without the raisins which was one of those pesky ingredients in the recipe detracting from my “English summer” theme) are really rather good.
Main 1

Hog roast with two Ottolenghi salads

Hog roast with two Ottolenghi salads

Main 3

In fact given the praise that the main got, and the genuine simplicity of putting it together, I couldn’t help wondering why people ate out at so much. Dessert was the piece de resistance and something I was both delighted with and slightly disappointed with at the same time. A few months on, I can barely remember the anxiety I suffered about the dessert. I wanted the dessert to share the same sharing characteristics of the starter and main, and like the prior two courses I wanted there to a spectacle to it- to contribute to this idea of celebrating – banqueting if you like. The tower of quails and the enormous joint of meat was an easy way to create that spectacle without too much effort but my ideas for super-visual desserts weren’t getting very far beyond meringues, multi-tiered cakes and other ideas that involved more effort and time than I was able to give. And then I hit (quite literally, albeit in an Internet Explorer sense) upon the glow in the dark jelly!

A truly brilliant creation which relies simply on the chemical in Indian Tonic Water – Quinine. And from that it came together, glow in the dark Gin and Tonic jelly, lemon drizzle cake and lemon mint ice-cream – jelly, cake and ice-cream. The stress, and when I say stress, I mean the kind of thing that keeps you awake at night came from the damn castle shaped jelly mould that I wanted to use (and had made Freddie buy). I tried the jelly in multi-coloured layers, the turrets slid off. I tried the jelly as a single layer, the turrets fell off. It tasted lovely but looked a mess. So I took the hard decision to add more gelatine (which from a purist’s perspective is not ideal, as the texture of jelly is said to be best with as little gelatine as is needed) and lower the sugar content. I also ended up buying two further moulds as back-ups and making three times the jelly mix I needed to fill each of them. Thank god for Freddie’s three fridges. So prior to the point of demoulding Freddie’s jelly, after two successful courses, I had not yet experienced a successful demould. So what happened? This:
Dessert 1.5Dessert 2

Dessert 4

It did look amazing and its wonderful to get that reaction from people, especially when they haven’t even eaten it yet! Although maybe that was for the best, I think flavourwise, the reduction in sugar regrettably made the jelly less tasty than all my messy practise jellies. And I’m not even sure that I really needed to reduce the sugar content to stabilise the jelly. Interestingly however, I couldn’t really feel the presence of the extra gelatine so all that worry over nothing. So all in all, it was a lovely evening. It wasn’t all about the food of course and Freddie put lots of thought into the whole evening so I’m definitely glad I decided to prioritise my role as partygoer over that of cook. Thanks Freddie for asking me to do this and I hope you had a good time Xxx
Dessert 3

But – this is a tale of two birthdays and so the story is not yet over…

The next birthday was my own.

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Cooksmith’s First Christmas Market Stall (first lots of things actually)

Things are finally getting into gear for my market stall. Well given that the stall is tomorrow and involves a 6am start – today had to be the “gearing up” day.

I’ve written up a timetable of everything I need to do and the strange thing is that cooking doesn’t cover too much of it.  Partly because some of the cooking will be done on site but also because it appears that running a market stall requires lots of trips to the wholesalers to pick up things you were hoping you didn’t need. It involves a lot of spending money and adding up numbers that end in minus numbers. The adding up bit is a particularly time-consuming task because the concluding minus numbers propel you to recalculate endlessly, over and over again amending the figure until you work out that the most financially viable option is deleting all the numbers in your spread sheet, because  nothing is better than less than nothing. Hmmm new motto?

Well but obviously not, I really want to do this. This is the closest thing I’m doing to the thing I want to do so this is exciting.  And I guess nerves are inevitable. And nerves are good? Its nerves that have sent me to Smithfield’s twice this week to buy fresh meat, nerves that have dictated I throw two separate dinners for friends so that they can try out my market offerings and give me feedback and its nerves that have encouraged me to eat variations on lamb everyday this week. So hopefully these nerves will make this stall work as best it can.

Having gone through various menu options with the odd two dozen people or so, tomorrow’s market menu will be as follows:

Midwinter lamb braised in stout served with a:

–          Sourdough trencher with lashings of garlic parsley butter topped with caramelised onions;


–          Soft and crispy potato layer cake with braised gem lettuce.

Each £6.50

Mulled ginger beer spiced with whole cloves and orange peel – £2


Anyway, would love to blog but things to do. See you tomorrow!

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I have also started trading under the name Cooksmith. Read on to find out about my most recent trading activities!

Today is Saturday 14 September and a most momentous occasion has happened. I held my first stall and sold my first product to a person who was not a member of my family or a friend!  Yes it is true that I’ve been running a supperclub for a few months and have incredibly managed to attract guests who are similarly unknown to me before the evening but supperclubs are by their nature a non-commercial activity. So this is a momentous occasion by virtue of having taken my first step towards actually making a living from pursuing the thing that I want to do. (In theory of course, given that I abysmally failed to break even today).

When I read about cronuts they seemed like such a phenominally wonderful idea! I love croissants. Like really love croissants. Possibly in quite a disgusting way – there have been days when I’ve eaten nothing but croissants all day and I’ve been reduced to nibbling croissants under the desk at lunchtime so not to attract my work collegues’ disbelief/pity/concern.

I also made croissants at the Ashburton school where I recently completed my professional skills cookery course – and unsurprisingly given my prelove of croissants – it was a highlight of the whole course. So having been waiting patiently to be inspired to make something for some stall that I might have someday it seemed like my moment had come! In fact, I speak fresh from having sold my (thirty three) cronuts and so indeed I feel like I’ve had a good moment!

Preparations making the croissant dough started early and I had some initial failures and some rather too frank feedback from friends. But it was all for a good cause I guess, and in the end I tinkered with the croissant dough (mainly by giving it 6 turns i.e. more laminations rather than the usual 3 turns) and got a nice light and layered dough.


Despite what a lot of online recipes say, I find that the hotter the oil for deepfrying the oil (around 190C) is necessary if you don’t want the cronut to taste greasy – provided you give the shaped cronuts enough time to prove then the hotter oil will still cook the dough before the outside colours too deeply.

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Anyway, finally on Market Day at Marylebone Parish Church grounds, I made three flavours (1) Ham and Cheese, (2) Blueberry and Coffee and (3) Raspberry and Hazelnut. Savoury works best it seems. Although they all sold out in the end, the Ham and Cheese cronut raced to the finish well ahead of the rest.


Also I had lots of help today with setting up and manning the stall – and I couldn’t have done without my Dad, my aunty, Terry, Freddie and James and all my friends who turned up today and frankly took me a good way towards me selling out at the end of the day. Thanks guys!


The only sad thing about the whole occasion is that after weeks of triallng croissant dough, preparing it and tasting the products including at 4am this morning when I was frying today’s batch of cronuts – the thought of eating a croissant gives me no pleasure (although I think I’m probably resilient enough for this not to be a permanent side effect…)


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