A taste of the Mediterranean came to the Manor earlier this month, in the form of Ottolenghi’s (and Sammi Tamimi’s) Jerusalem book, which has just won best cookbook at the IACP cookbook awards. We ran events on both the Friday and Saturday nights, welcoming in 26 guests, some old, some new to our supperclub, keen to try some Israeli treats.
I think there is a perception that Ottolenghi’s cuisine is complicated, but I think what really puts people off is some of the hard to obtain ingredients – such as preserved lemons, sumac, z’ataar and pomegranate molasses. We got some ingredients online but we did find that supermarkets are getting much better at having diverse ranges for sale. Plus, I always think that cooking is all about making something with what’s locally available, so don’t feel afraid to substitute an ingredients if you need to. For example, maple syrup was used instead of date syrup in one of the recipes, simply because I knew that I probably wouldn’t use date syrup again. Just use what is accessible to you, you never know you might create a new taste sensation!
The Jerusalem book is a good introduction to Israeli food – from the melting pot of Jewish influenced cuisine to more traditional Palestinian fare. This is interspersed with accounts from Ottolenghi about his experiences of growing up in such a beautiful place, but one that is so plagued with political unsettle. It certainly makes it an intriguing place to visit one day.
We tried to pick a good range of morsels that people would expect to find on a middle eastern menu, but also those that may surprise and intrigue. The welcome drink was a vodka spiked pomegranate fizz with rose syrup. This was paired with canapés that included homemade falafel. These were filled with tons of lovely spices and, believe it or not, raw chickpeas. This ensured the texture was moist and light rather than dry and heavy. I love falafel and loved cooking these so may invest in a proper press. Also on offer were crostini with a vividly pink beetroot and zataar dip. This was full of complex flavours – sweetness from the beetroot and maple syrup; saltiness and intense savouriness from the z’ataar. The final canapé was a little lamb and pine nut koftas, seasoned with allspice and cinnamon (amongst other spices) and served it a smooth tahini and garlic sauce.
This Saturday saw a bit of China come to the Manor. It was hard work, but using Ken Hom & Ching He-Huan’s book Exploring China, we were able to pull off what we hope was an authentic feast! The book is a really good introduction into the regional cuisines within China and shows that Chinese food is definitely not all MSG laden and greasy, which is unfortunately the misconception we have in the UK. Dan and I were immediately attracted to the Sichuan dishes within the book and most of the dishes we served up followed that lead.
Last month was our Rachel Khoo inspired French event. We’ve now done a few events using recipes from the ‘Little Paris Kitchen’ book, including a private supperclub and an afternoon tea. We like Rachel’s peasant style recipes paired with her stunning patisserie (she trained as a pattisiere). We found that the recipes don’t always work, as Rachel cooks in such a small oven at home where she created her recipes, and so we had to test everything thoroughly in advance.
Our guests were welcomed with a classic Kir royale, it couldn’t be any other cocktail for a French theme could it?! These were joined by canapes of lettuce cups, filled with crunchy nicoise style veg, creamy egg and lemony dressing; quail egg mini croque madame muffins (now a firm Manor favourite!); and crostini topped with a fresh and punchy ratatouille. Our amouse bouche was shots of Rachel’s creamy potato and cauliflower soup. This soup can be served hot or cold and the cauliflower makes it the silkiest soup I’ve ever tasted.
One of my surprise favourite books from last year was River Cottage’s homage to veg, which was headed by a healthy eating campaign that saw a very svelte and wholesome Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall appear from nowhere! The book is a lovely one to work with, full of lots of colourful photography, making veg look fun and innovative. We always try and cater for all dietary needs but do like to put a full on veggie event at least once a year. Having said that around only 2 of our 14 guests were official full-time vegetarians, which says a lot for how far veggie food has come in the last 20 years. As a recovering vegetarian myself I eat meat-free often and so putting together a full menu of veggie delights was a pleasure rather than a chore. We also had a gluten-free guest and so, on the whole, tried to pick things that she could eat with the whole group rather than single her out.
Our guests were welcomed with a rustic blackberry mule cocktail. This was a sweet and tangy concoction that included blackberry puree, homemade blackberry vodka, lime juice and ginger beer. Our canapes, rustled up by Susie, included moreish mini potato and swede pasties. These were spiked with tangy mature cheddar cheese and came encased in Susie’s homemade buttery puff pastry. Next up were crostini topped with Cambodian wedding dip which is a bizarre but extremely tasty spread made from mushrooms, coconut milk, spices and peanut butter (amongst other things). It was warm and spicy and extremely comforting to eat. The final canape was a mini cup of parsnip and ginger soup, this was velvety and full of warmth from the ginger.
This weekend saw us host our last event for 2012 and close up the Manor for this year with our Vintage afternoon tea! This was a private event which we held for two lovely groups of ladies who wanted to start their Christmas celebration with some savoury and sweet delights! We love putting on these afternoon teas, if not only so Dan can whip out his fine array of vintage crockery, which I am very jealous of!
Once again we were able to put our baking hats on to create our version of an afternoon tea. Yes, it’s a tradition but we like to put our own spin on the proceedings, serving some hot and cold savoury treats alongside the usual sweet morsels. Continue reading →
Christmas has arrived at the Manor again and in honour of our favourite celebration we held a dinner inspired by some of our favourite festive Nigella recipes. We used Feast, Nigellissima, Kitchen and Nigella’s Christmas as our guides to put together a filling and enjoyable banquet. We’ve always felt that the Manor is at its best as a winter venue and so it was an absolute joy to have an excuse to get the tree and decorations out particularly early!
We welcomed our guests in from a particularly chilly night and led them up to our cosy library with roaring fire and Christmas carols. We had a mixture of new and repeat guests who were all looking forward to some Christmas fun!
The cocktail for the evening was a ‘yule mule’ a vodka based tipple with lime juice, cranberry and ginger beer. This was paired with canapes that included bocconcini, or ‘golden balls’ – little mozzarella pearls coated in breadcrumbs and fried til golden and crisp. Also on the agenda were sticky and moist chipolatas in a moreish ginger and mustard glaze. Finally the canape we’ve been excited about for ages was mini meatzzas. A meatzza is Nigella’s bizarre attempt at combining a pizza but instead of bread, the base is made of meat! She makes giant ones but Susie adapted the recipe and formed mini bite size beauties. They were a revelation for us, elegant and fun – plus they did indeed taste of pizza!
This weekend we channelled our inner greediness as we opened up the Manor for an autumnal feast inspired by 90s gems the Two Fat Ladies. Susie and I have recently picked up this retro cookbook from charity shops and were keen to put it to good use. Full of game, hearty ingredients and no nonsense directions it’s a fun book to work with – or so we thought!…
We spent months picking the right dishes for our November menu and putting them to the test. It soon transpired that we were wise to do this as not all the recipes were foolproof, or even that tasty!
We kickstarted our meal with a welcome drink of sloe gin fizz that was spiced up with ginger syrup and lime juice. This was paired with Susie’s elegant canapes of scotch eggs made with quail eggs. These differed to Jennifer and Clarissa’s version, which suggested chopped ham and anchovy instead of the seasoned sausage meat that Susie used. Also on offer were crostini topped with poor man’s caviar (a smoked aubergine pate, baba ganouch) and deliciously sweet crab, coriander and corn fritters – both of which we’re afraid to say were also slightly adapted!
Last weekend saw Dinner at the Manor celebrate our 1st birthday, and what a year it has been! 245 dinners served over 18 events to some wonderful people, from all over the UK and beyond, who we hope have enjoyed it as much as we have.
This weekend the Manor went al-fresco for our River Cafe themed event. This book really appealed to us as we both love Italian flavours and we thought it would be fitting for a summer event. However, the days leading up were fraught with worry due to the unpredictable weather we’ve been having. Would it be a wash out, or would British summertime actually make an appearance? As luck would have it, it did!
Whilst there was a lot of advance prep involved for this one, many of the elements required fast cooking there and then on the night – added pressure, that we were quite worried about! In addition to this Nick, who normally takes the helm behind the camera unfortunately had to work, so I had to double up on this role too! (He did help post edit though!)
In October Dinner at the Manor will celebrate our one year in supperclubbing and what a year it’s been. We have cooked some fabulous stuff over the past 12 months to 174 guests and we’d thought we’d give you the chance vote for what we cook at our birthday supperclub on Saturday 6 October 2012, which will be a special celebration dinner for us! We will, of course, we will be keeping some surprises for the night…
Pick one choice from each of the courses below to control the menu for the night, which will become part of our traditional 6 course extravaganza!!