A hundred limes, forty eggs, a small forest of coriander and a little bit of spice were some of the key ingredients for our most recent supperclub - inspired by Thomasina Miers’ ‘Mexican Food Made Simple.’ To brighten up a cold January weekend, we brought the exotic colours and flavours of Wahaca into the Manor and our guests positive response to this was wonderful!
Susie and I have been planning this event for some months now, as Miers’ book was our favourite of 2011. It’s strength lies in the huge amount of fresh produce it encourages you to use to create exciting, gutsy dishes that get the taste buds tantalised. In fact, this event had possibly the longest ingredient list we have ever experienced. Leeds Market did not know what had hit it when I descended with my giant shopping bag, I must have visited every day last week, picking up as much as I could carry each time! Despite this it was wonderful to create moreish dishes with such a bounty of fresh and tasty ingredients.
We started our feast with canapes of homemade pork scratchings, spicy nuts, cheese and chilli bites, tostadas and guacamole. The scratchings were a particular hit with our (meat eating) guests – salty, spicy and ultra crunchy. They were a perfect pair with the cool, creamy and slightly chunky guacamole that Susie had lovingly hand-squelched earlier in the evening! Our cocktail of the night was a tart and super strong margarita punch. The classic combination of tequila, triple sec and lime juice was a hit with the drinkers in the group – although we were pretty sick of squeezing limes by the end of the weekend!
Our amouse bouche of black bean sopa Azteca had unusual sweet and sour flavours combined with the comforting qualities of black beans. It was a great way to introduce guests to flavours like smoked chipotle - which are common in Miers’ interpretation of Mexican food.
For starters guests had a choice of a fish plate that included sardine escabeche, prawn coctel and oriental ceviche. The coctel was a personal favourite of mine – a firey bloody mary style marinade that was poured over fresh prawns and an avocado and tomato salsa.
Veggies had a treat of three homemade tacos stuffed with creamy greens, rich with the aniseed tang of tarragon. Crunchy sweetcorn and chipotle, laced with allspice, mint and coriander, and finally roasted squash with chile de arbol and hot smoked paprika.
Without fail the room went silent when these courses were served – which we hope was a good sign!
Our main courses were a deliciously moist pork belly with crispy crackling, that had been firstly poached with a stock of tamarind, chilli, allspice and chipotle, then roasted in the oven to make even more crunchy cracking! Veggies had a smoky pepper that was stuffed with potato, chipotle, goats cheese and mango. A weird sounding combination but surprisingly tasty and filling. Both were served with the house speciality of refried beans and green rice. The beans are cooked over a 4 hour period and are the ultimate comfort food – silky, unctuous and almost spicy from the amount of butter, coriander and fennel that is used in the cooking process.
After a short break a surprise pre-dessert of Mexican chocolate sorbet was served to get guests in the mood for something sweet and naughty. Guests were pleasantly surprised by this rich little morsel and could not believe it contained barely any dairy as it tasted like a super creamy ice cream! It was the one dish that people were still talking about on leaving the Manor. We promise to post a recipe up soon as it is very simple and sooo tasty! It was served with a cheeky splash of tequila. We quickly polished off the remains back in the kitchen!
The actual dessert was a creamy Mexican flan with a tequila syrup – this is a Mexican take on a creme caramel, although the texture is much less rubbery. We tracked down some scarce Yorkshire forced rhubarb, which was poached and served alongside the flan. The sherberty sharpness of the fruit cut through the rich creaminess of the flan perfectly – yum! We also ate all the leftovers of this one too. And actually my day has just got better as I’ve realised there is still one in the fridge now – happy days!!!
After coffee and spiced chilli chocolate cupcakes, courtesy of Susie, we entered the dining room to chat to our guests. I have to say that on both nights there was a wonderful atmosphere at the Manor. Yet again we had many people that were brand new to supperclubs and in many cases had come from as far as Harrogate, Knaresborough and Sheffield.
We were so glad people were brave enough to put their faith in us. The great atmosphere is testament to the willingness and open-mindedness of guests to try out a new experience and be prepared to meet new people. I can safely say that many left with great new friends and the promise of coming back to the Manor – we would gladly have everyone back!
To sum up the weekend it was a joy to cook with beautiful, fresh produce. It did mean that there was lots of hard work with preparation as everything had to be made fresh on the day. However this was blatantly translated into the quality of the food that we delivered to our guests. When you’ve got great ingredients and decent recipes it’s hard to go wrong.
Again, a massive thanks goes to Richard and Nick – who are our unseen, unsung washing up heroes! Nick once again has produced some tantalising photographs too. Thanks to Thomasina Miers for inspiring us – the colourful and tasty dishes certainly cheered up a dreary January!!