Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Hungry Gecko dining club is now open!

I thought I'd have a quick blog about last night while it's still fresh in my mind.  I thoroughly enjoyed cooking for 12 guests.  Such a perfect number to make beautiful plates of food and I have to say, feedback on the service was great, so my husband seems to be a natural.  The lack of stress was a joy and I think the bliss of cooking like that showed in the food.  I was really happy with what I produced, and to be fair, it's not often I say that about my own dishes.  I've been trying to keep a quote in my mind...  it makes me feel better about my food and that can only be a good thing.

When you acknowledge as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving towards perfection becomes clear….to make people happy. That’s what cooking is all about” – Thomas Keller

The dinner guests were lovely people too and it was nice to see new friends being made.  The garden annexe room is a delightful setting for a table for four and the adjoining main dining room was kept more spacious for eight guests.  I think it worked really well.

So I didn't get the best pictures of the food - too busy cooking obviously, but we managed to get a few....

The menu included an amuse bouche I have been trying perfect the flavour in (and the construction of) soy infused tempeh with wasabi sesame seeds.

I've been working on my paneer shashlik too.  I don't have the space to make my own paneer at the moment and the packet stuff is very rubbery and lacks flavour (I'm really selling it here :)  But I managed to find an awesome supplier of fresh paneer in Rusholme, so I've very happy with this dish now.  It's a shame the nasturtium season is almost over, but I'm excited to be working on a new menu for next months dining club dates. 

I made this pudding 3 or 4 times before I perfected the recipe.  For a start, I find most recipes for Banh Gan (Vietnamese coconut creme caramel) are much too sweet.  If you're using good quality coconut milk, there's a natural sweetness that needs to come through I think.  Then there's the cooking method and times.  I found the water bath technique was too much for the custard.  A nice long steam bath is what was needed.  By now it was half one in the morning but I held my patience and was justly rewarded in the end.  I love that the dining club gives you the opportunity to strive for perfection! 

This cute little pudding is making an appearance next week, alongside some gorgeous accompaniments, for my collaboration with Tampopo at the Manchester Food & Drink Festival.  

Tickets are still available, from Tampopo Albert Square or the Triangle, or via their website

There are also still a couple of places remaining for my dining club on Friday 18th November.  New dates will go on my website soon

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cookery classes, collaborations & a lack of concentration perhaps...

I've been such a a busy bee lately.  So many irons in the fire.  Which is good, but I do think I need to focus.  Focus on what I want, the food I want to make and who I want to work with.  Unfortunately all this activity has meant a week away from home, but it makes me appreciate it all the more now I'm back (apart from armies of the teenagers that appear to have moved in).  

With the inmminent launch of my dining club (aka supperclub, underground restaurant or whatever you want to call it) we've been working hard to get the set up just right.  Lee's working on some dining music while I blog.  I'm very excited about the launch night and been working hard on perfecting dishes.  Both dates are now booked up, but I will post some new dates to the website soon.

I had an enjoyable evening last week with a Cracking Good Food cookery class, a local social enterprise company that aims to give people the skills to cook seasonal, nutritious and cost effective food from scratch.  The enthusiastic students did a fantastic job of their cauliflower stuffed parathas.  I hope to do another new class with them again early next year.

This weekend I spent a day teaching a Streetfood Masterclass at The Vegetarian Society's Cordon Vert cookery school.  Again, great fun although a long day for a Sunday and I forgot to give them a break!

I've also been busy working on the menu with Tampopo Co-founder David Fox for the Manchester Food & Drink Festival dining event, Tuesday 11th October.  More details can be found here:
We've come up with a really exciting East Asian feast, in between sharing travel stories.  Not surprisingly we have a lot in common when it comes to travel and food.  The menu includes Tampopo classics and some travel inspired dishes with a fine dining twist.  I'm VERY excited.  Not least to be working with such an experienced team.  Tickets can be booked online via the MFDF website or at Tampopo Triangle, Exchange Square or Tampopo Albert Square.

Mekong & Beyond
5 Course Tasting Menu:
£39 pp (including ½ bottle wine or equivalent)

Asian Cocktail
With Thai prawn crackers

Vietnamese Lettuce Wrap
Mint, Asian basil, coriander, cucumber,
with a chilli, ginger and garlic sambal

Asian Dumplings
Trio of dumplings including gyoza stuffed with exotic mushrooms,
glassy steamed dumpling filled with fresh crab or smoky tofu,
& crispy wonton filled with chilli squid or Asian vegetables.
All served with Asian pickles & dips.

Singapore Laksa with Lobster & Clams
Yellow noodles, lobster & clams in a fiery coconut broth,
with mint, cucumber, red onion, tofu & lime
Singapore Laksa with Smoky Tofu (v)
Yellow noodles, crispy smoky tofu in a fiery coconut & macadamia broth,
with mint, cucumber, red onion & lime

Malaysian Rendang served three ways
Rich coconut curry served with beef, tempeh & jackfruit,
served with lime rice and snake bean & watercress fritters

Vietnamese Creme Caramel
Coconut caramel pudding served with caramelised pineapple & ginger wafers