Saturday, 23 October 2010

Eureka Moments

The sound of the alarm is a rude intrusion into my peaceful sleep and my first thoughts as I prepare to get out of bed are, what I'm I wearing today:?! It then dawns on me that it's Saturday morning! As I get ready to sink deeper into my warm covers, you know the feeling one gets when one realises it Saturday and one doesn't have to get up for anything, yes, that one, when I jolt out of bed with the realisation that I've actually got 15 people coming for a 4 course dinner, what's more, I still have more shopping to do and the almond biscotti I've decided to include in the goodie bags means I need even more time, why did I even go bed, even though it was 1am!!! Needles to say that got me out of bed faster than Hussein Bolt in his 100m dash.

Shopping done, I'm back at home and getting on with my mis-en-place which I have scheduled with military precision, the biscotti not being a deterrent at all! I am a woman on a mission. Halfway through de-boning the 15 chicken legs, I begin to wonder what the whole point of  the exercise is, after all, I'm taking the flesh off the chicken skin, chopping it into little pieces, mixing it with onions, veal and pork and stuffing it all back in again! Why ever did I think this was a brilliant idea? Note to self, eureka moments in the middle of the night, not so brilliant! Task completed, and it's the turn for my starter to get some attention. I trim the pork chops and rub on the wonderful spices that I've roasted in the oven with the lavender for 15 minutes, compared to the chicken, this is a doddle! I start on the date sauce that accompanies the chops and I find myself performing my famous jiggle with a hooray as it is absolutely fantastic, it's moments like these that let me know it's all worth it.

The room is set, lights deemed and candles lit with lovely quiet music in the background and all that is left is for the guests to arrive and for me to deliver, and deliver I'm determined to!

As I stand in the kitchen prepping the main course, there is this comfortable rhubarb, rhubarb (background noise in the world of  performing arts but quite appropriate on this occasion) in the background of happy conversation going on and in me there is this feeling of pride and contentment as apart from just serving  food, my idea is to create a social environment where people can come and relax, enjoy good food and in some cases make wonderful new friends too.  As I walk around I see empty plates and that brings me utter joy too. There are questions as to how each dish was prepared which of course sets me off into my favourite subject, food! Luckily I don’t see any eyes glazing over. To me the most successful dish of the night is the pork as it lived up to and exceeded my expectations and everyone seemed to really enjoy it too! Another favourite I suppose

It’s 3am in the morning and having just about managed to shoo out the last guest 30 minutes earlier, I’ve assumed the stance of a happy dog who’s belly is being tickled i.e back flat on the floor, feet in the air, but in my case it is out of sheer pain and exhaustion I won’t exclude the happy though, do I wish someone was tickling my belly?.......

My trademark scarlet talons are a thing of the past, my hands feel like a sack cloth but I would I give it up? Bring on Halloween dinner!

November is also bound to have some exciting menus including a Thanksgiving dinner while December being a celebratory month, will be filled with delectable and sumptuous menus, all things celebratory! Look forward to seeing you soon.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Summer Summation

As the mornings and evenings stealthily get darker and darker, I'm left with the wonder of how fast summer has come and gone by, are the summers getting shorter or is it just me, we do say this every year don't we?! The difference for me this year is that I undertook to purse a dream and a love of mine, cooking good food and sharing it with anyone who loves it!

Some of the highlights, of which there are many, include going to Tuscany for a dear friend's wedding and wonder of wonders, taking part in a Bollywood dance! I'm still waiting for the offers I was promised would come flowing in from Bollywood, after all, that was the only reason I would make a public nuisance of myself, right?! Apparently, there is even a youtube clip going around, talk to me nicely and I may be persuaded to send you in the right direction :-) The trip of course is filled with wonderful memories of moments spent with great friends and the most amazing views, including the most incredible lightning displays!

Of course any trip wouldn't be complete for me without sampling local cuisine, some so good and some not so great! It was to me the introduction of the most incredible cheese I've ever tasted, Burrata. Think of the best buffalo mozzarella you've ever tasted and then multiply it by 10! It is milder and creamier hence making it tastier than mozzarella! Imagine my absolute delight when I discovered a little Italian delicataseen in town stocked it! Look out for it on one of my menus, served with home made chili jam and home made Italian bread.

Well, I shan't drag on with my tales as this is all about food isn't it?! I haven't stopped cooking, baking, braising, poaching, roasting, name a method of cooking, I've probably tried it this summer. This is not only a journey to share good food with people but also to push myself that bit further and see how good I really am. So you love food, push me!

As Autumn is one of my favourite months of year, I have wonderful recipes to share with you, after all, these are the months we can indulge ourselves without the guilt as our bodies need to require extra fuel to keep as warm.

OCTOBER DATES
Saturday 2nd October
For menu, see menu page

Saturday 16th October - Fully booked, waiting list
See menu page 

Saturday 30th October - Halloween Dinner, 4 places left
See menu page

NOVEMBER DATES
Saturday 13th November

Thursday 25th November - Thanksgiving, book early to avoid disappointment
Menu to include Turkey and all it's trimmings

Saturday 27th November
See menu page

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Update and August Dates

The last event was quite an eye opener to say the least! It was one of those occasions when “nature” plays havoc with one’s plans! Woke up at 7 am to prepare the parmesan baskets, had seemed like a brilliant idea when I thought of serving my risotto in these until I started making them! Well, like the menu said, I had to melt the parmesan then mould it on down-turned ramekins, 3 ramekins in and quite a lot of wasted parmesan later, I got the hang of it and now know exactly what to do next time, not to serve risotto in parmesan baskets! :-), seriously they will be a lot better.
I then decided to make the profiteroles before going out for a final shop. Why don’t recipes ever tell one what size eggs one should use?! I promise when I write my recipe book, I shall even include the spoon manufacturer (don’t hold me to it though!), there are different sized tbs and tsp, depending on manufacturer and this can make a big difference to a recipe! Well, I used large eggs because that’s what I normally buy and what most cakes require but just turns out this may have been too big as the mixture was rather runny for something that needed to go through a piping bag! Nevertheless, I did manage to get it through J and into the oven and they rose alright but came out looking quite different to what I’d expected. I then decided to go and finish that shopping before it was too late. By this time the sun was really making its presence felt!
Came back home with medium sized eggs to have another go at the profiteroles and continue with my mis-en-place!  This time the mixture looked a lot better so I gave a little triumphant jump! Well, talk about premature celebrations! I took a peek through the oven door glass (of course one doesn’t open an oven door in the first 15 mins of baking!) and what I saw made me do a little dance around my kitchen (If the chap across the road didn’t have a street cred before, I’m sure it’s now rocketed by tales of the “lady” who lives across from me, stories for a different blog!) 5 minutes later, I took out of the oven perfect profiteroles and arranged them on a wire rack just to watch the air sucked out of them! Literally 2 minutes after they came out of the oven, they were flatter than pancakes if that’s possible! L, yes, it was actually too hot to bake profiteroles!
Oh well, I had to quickly think of something for dessert and decided to go for my famed chocolate brownies, which of course I’d bake last minute to serve hot with the ice cream I’d already bought. After the main course was served and I’d mixed all the ingredients for the dessert and safely put them in the oven, I was sitting at the table enjoying dinner conversation with my guests and sampling some of the great wines they’d brought with them when I suddenly realised I’d forgotten to add baking powder to the brownie mixture! What to do?! Excused myself very calmly and tried not to run to the kitchen, took a peek through the glass door again and all seemed well, I guess the perspiration on my face was attributed to the weather :-)! Took the brownie out and served it hoping all would be well. It is/was the best chocolate brownie I have ever made, from the sounds from the guests and requests for seconds!. Really was like a fondant, really crunchy on the top and soft and gooey in the middle! Who would have thought after the day I’d had I’d discover a new way to make brownies, as this is how I’ll do them from now on, minus the drama and panic of course!

Despite all that, I haven’t been put off from my adventure, really, but will soldier on. I haven’t quite decided on the menus for my next events yet but they are sure to be exciting. The 7th of August is leaning towards Asian with dishes like Salt and Pepper Prawns or Rock Shrimp tempura with a spicy dipping sauce, whichever gets the most votes goes. Also watch out for the Potato Ravioli (the ravioli is made out of potato and stuffed with mushrooms) as I’ve now managed to locate a mandolin, Chocolate and Toffee Fondant, Twice baked Cheese Soufflés and many more exciting dishes. You are of course welcome to make suggestions as to what you’d like to see on the menu and I promise to do it justice!
Hope to see you at any one of the following dates or even at all of them:-
AUGUST EVENT DATES
Saturday 7th
Menu to be confirmed
Saturday 21st
Menu to be confirmed
Saturday 28th
Menu to be confirmed

Sunday, 27 June 2010

When Good Food Happens! - Friday 9th July

Well, I'm well into my stride now after 3 successful dinners! How does one measure success?For me it's through the perfect execution of every dish and hearing those groaning sounds with each mouthful, not quite "When Harry met Sally" but quite close! :-). On this occasion, my starter and main course are leaning more towards Italy where I'm sure we'll all agree some of the most delicious dishes come from. Gone are the days when Italian food was just Pizza (that's what I thought until I found a few gems scattered all over London!) So here we go!

Appetissers:-
Prawn Satay:
After the success of this dish at my last dinner and having been told by the diners that it should be my signature dish, I shall very much oblige, hence it's featuring on this night! The Prawns are coated with a prawn puree and home made curry paste (turmeric, star anise, cardamom, cloves, cumin, mace, fenugreek and coriander seeds, dry fried and pounded to make the paste). They are then shallow fried and finished off in the oven. These served with a home made sweet and sour sauce plays amazing games with the pallet!

Starter:-
Saffron Risotto served in parmesan baskets:
Sometimes the simplest of things are the best and this dish demonstrates just that. The risotto is cooked in home made chicken stock and saffron strands added to it to give it that rich golden colour. The parmesan is melted in a non-stick pan molden on an overturned large ramakin to give it it's shape into which the risotto is poured and served.  Utter heaven, even though I say so myself!

Main Course:-
Salt Baked Sea Bass served with Almond Aioli:
Does as it says on the tin! The Sea Bass is completely covered in salt and baked in the oven. I never used to know what all the fuss over this dish was until I tried it myself and almost had an ....fit! :-), not sure I'm allowed to use the omitted word on the site! It is yet again simple but completely melts in your mouth. This will be served with a home made Almond Aioli.

Dessert:-
Profiteroles filled with Ice Cream and covered with dark chocolate:
Need I say more!?

To book a place email: thefirstbiteis@gmail.com. There is a minimum contribution of £30 pounds and as usual it is a BYO.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Food glorious food - Saturday 26th June


Why did I ever start themed dinners! Running out of themes now so this night is all about the gloriousness of food and I hope the menu does this justice! The menu is out to challenge "popular" belief and I guess in a way that is what we call "fusion"?
Appetiser:-
Prawn Satay:

The Prawns are coated with a prawn puree and home made curry paste (turmeric, star anise, cardamom, cloves, cumin, mace, fenugreek and coriander seeds, dry fried and pounded to make the paste). They are then shallow fried and finished off in the oven. These served with a home made sweet and sour sauce makes the mouth water even as I'm typing this!

Starter:-
A Salad of Scallops with Hazelnuts and Apples:











The Scallops are marinated overnight in hazelnut oil, shallots, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and blanched lemon rind. They are then quickly cooked over a high heat for 2 minutes on each side and served with green leaf salad mixed with shredded apples and a hazelnut veinaigrette and garnished with whole roasted hazelnuts. The softness of the scallops contrasts beautifully with the crunchiness of the hazelnuts to make this dish quite unique.

Main Course:
Roast Beef with Mushroom sauce served with green beans and mashed potatoes

 
This recipe is actually Danish, in honour of the wonderful guests I had last week at my fusion night who brought me some books as they felt I'd left out Denmark from my food journey, here is to you Ib and co! The beef is coated with yoghurt and mustard and cooked in the oven. The mushroom sauce is utter decadence and for purely that reason alone, I won't share the secrets! :-)

Dessert:
Raspberry cheesecake brownie











Yes, it's not a typo but I will be making brownie cheesecake! It is what it says on the tin is pure, utter glorious indulgence!

Can't wait to share all these with you and I promise all pictures will follow soon. As usual it's a BYO and a minimum contribution of £30.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Fusion Dinner - 12th June

I've always been fascinated by food from all around the world hence the idea of my next supper. I was once invited to dinner by a friend from Venezuela who said they were going to cook me an authentic Venezuelan meal, something called Arepas! Imagine my shock and utter delight when the said dish arrived on the table only to find it was actually something I'd grown up with but cooked with a lot more imagination?!

Of course I had to feature Arepas on my fusion night for it is a true portrayal of what fusion is all about. Who could have imagined South America having a cuisine in common with Africa! The other dishes have been simply picked for their deliciousness. Exploring cuisines from around the world is my quest for this blog and sharing it with you all will be my utter pleasure.

THE MENU

Appetiser:- (South America - Africa)
Meat & Cheese Arepas
 Fried corn pancakes filled with fried beef and served with a tomato and onion salsa and cheese. This is a  South American specialty and it's simplicity contrasts delightfully with the burst of flavours!

Starter:- (Italy)
Rotolo of spinach, squash & ricotta
 Home made egg pasta sheets filled with roasted squash, spinach and ricotta with fennel and chillies. The hot chillies, the sweet squash and sour taste of ricotta all combine to play tingling games with one's tongue!

Main Course:- (India)
Parsee-style Hot and Sweet Chicken with apricots.


Chicken cooked in cardamom, ginger, garlic, cumin, apricots and chilies and served with basmati rice and chapatti.

Dessert:-(Latin America)
Churros served with a choice of either a dark chocolate sauce or white chocolate and yoghurt sauce

Saturday, 22 May 2010

29th Indian Delight Menu

Well, at last the long awaited menu is here!

Entrée
Batata Wada (mashed potato balls), Onion Bhajia (Onions with Gram Flour Fritters) and Beef Samosa served with pomegranate raita and home made tamarind sauce.

Starter
Roast Salmon with Dill and Mustard served with a green pea relish

The Salmon is twice marinated, firstly with a ginger and garlic paste, lightly seared then marinated in grated cheddar cheese, Greek-style yoghurt, wholegrain mustard, chopped chillies and single cream and baked in the oven. The green pea relish has a kick to it reminiscent of Japanese wasabi.

Main
Hot and Sweet Chicken curry with apricots garnished with potato straws and accompanied by pilau rice and chapatti

This dish packs a lot of flavours and textures and is dark, rich, sweet and spicy all at the same time! It has all the classic curry spices such as cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cloves chillies ginger etc.

Dessert
Raspberry and White Chocolate Soufflé

I know! Not your typical Indian dessert I guess but it’s an absolute favourite of mine and therefore decided that after a night packed with such full flavours as above, it would only be justifiable to serve something as decadent yet so light and delicious as this.

I hope this menu inspires you as much as it does me and my aim is for every single person to leave with a smile on their face and a song in their hearts from having enjoyed themselves!

My next posting will be of the full menu and how to prepare the dishes

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The First Dinner - Curry Delight - Saturday 29th May


The launch of my very own Supper Club! I am looking forward to making new friends already.

Menu to be published nearer the time. I'm so full of ideas that I'm hard pressed to pick what to cook but whatever I pick, I intend it to be a show stopper. There will be 4 courses served, with the main dish being a curry and of course the famous Chapattis! BYO and a minimum contribution of £30. To book a place, please contact me at thefirstbiteis@gmail.com. Book early in order to avoid disappointment as my intention is to keep the numbers small and intimate.

About Me


Where do I start?

I guess I learnt at a very early age that if I wanted a good meal I’d have to make it myself, which in itself is incredible and just goes to emphasise that I do have a very discerning palate, to the frustration of quite a few of my friends, we’ll go into that at a later date. My mother didn’t cook you see, or didn’t cook well and we always had house help, that may sound privileged but trust me it wasn’t as grand as it sounds.

I remember very well the first time I cooked. I’d just come home from school and very grandly announced that I wanted to eat chapatti, I was 11 years old! Kenya’s food is influenced a lot by Indian cuisine, a legacy left behind by the Indians who came over to help the British build the railway as the locals had refused to do so due to superstition. Chapatti was and still is very much a luxury in most homes and eaten at the weekend as a treat for those who can afford it or only on big occasions for the less fortunate. Mum informed me that Mary, the girl living with us at the time, had already made supper and that if I wanted chapatti I’d have to make it myself, she was joking and was absolutely amazed when I did it. They may have been a bit hexagonal rather than round but I did it and thus began my love affair with food/cooking. To this day, I’m told I make the best chapatti and mum will not allow anyone else to do it if I’m home. I guess you’ll have to judge for yourself when I do the curry night.

Why do I want to do this? I live, breath and eat food ;-) and I guess would love to share what I’ve learnt over the years with like minded people. I may not cook in a professional kitchen but would damn well give those professionals a run for their money!!!