Guests from as far afield as London and Edinburgh, (and a US and Canadian expat!) joined us for our vegetarian feast inspired by Ottolenghi’s Plenty with beer pairings by Innis and Gunn. The Manor was once again taken over by mountains of fresh herbs, lovely spices and piles of vegetables, grains and pulses. Our veg of the weekend was aubergine and we’re pleased to report we got through 20 of them!
We enjoy the events where we cook food from foreign lands. Mainly because it gives diners something new and interesting to eat and it gives us an enjoyable challenge. This month we showcased food from Turkey, Morocco, Japan and China (amongst others). We were pleased to have a good mix of repeat bookings (one of our guests is on their fourth visit now!) as well as newbies who were excited to be having their first supperclub experience. Hilary of My Monkfish fame also joined us and was our key link to working with Innis and Gunn on the food and ale pairings.
Guests were welcomed with an Innis and Gunn Original, the flagship beer, which has luscious malt and fruity hop notes. It seemed to go down rather too well, which was slightly worrying when it comes in at a whopping 6.6%! This was matched with canapes of socca (chickpea flour “blinis” with roasted tomatoes and caramelised onions); lentil galettes (posh vol au vents made with home-made spelt puff pastry) and delicously cheesy, crunchy and comforting aubergine croquettes with aioli. We think they were enjoyed as there was not much left by the end (beer and canapés!)
To set the scene in the dining room we set our internet radio to ‘Yam FM’ which is an Israeli station (in honour of Israel born Ottolenghi). It was very Middle Eastern but felt a bit like the Eurovision song contest on repeat! Anyway, after an amouse bouche of garlic soup (made with 50 cloves of garlic that came complete with a dollop of homemade harissa), starters were distributed.
To give people a flavour of the kinds of things in Plenty we opted for a mezze plate. This included burnt aubergine dip with a yoghurt flatbread; spicy leek fritter with a sharp goat curd and hazlenuts; roasted butternut squash slices with a lime, chilli, tahini and yoghurt dressing; and kisir (which is a turkish salad made with bulghar wheat) served in a babygem leaf. These dishes were pretty on the plate and complex to prepare with so many garnishes involved. It felt like a lot of food to be serving for a starter but feedback was that it was so tasty that people kept on eating it! This was served with Innis and Gunn’s Highland Cask which comes in its own cute, little box. This special bottling of Innis & Gunn has been matured in oak barrels which had previously been used to mature 18 year old single malt Scotch Whisky and is quite sweet in flavour with notes of vanilla and toffee. It suited the sharp goat curd well.
After a break to make room in growing bellies, the main course of black pepper tofu was served. This dish was made famous by Masterchef a couple of years ago. Susie has made it before and declared it ‘toxic’ due to the large amount of chilli and black pepper in it! We toned the black pepper down to ensure this version was a pleasure, rather than painful, for guests to eat! The tofu is fried in advance and then coated in a sticky soy and black pepper sauce. Even tofu sceptics enjoyed this, we actually had the leftovers for breakfast the next day, it was so nice! It came with some steamed wild rice and a cold salad of brocollini with a sesame and tahini dressing. We picked the Innis and Gunn Blonde for this dish as it is well suited to spicy foods. It has luscious fruit, vanilla and oak with refreshing sparkle. We served it chilled to make it extra refreshing. This was one of the beer hits of the night!
A palate cleanser of mango, lime and ginger sorbet was next on the menu followed by desserts. A choice of flourless chocolate cake or cheeseboard were on offer. Now, in Plenty there are no desserts so we had to look to the Ottolenghi cookbook for the flourless chocolate cake. If you search the internet then you’ll find that there are reams of blogs obsessing about it. Now that we have made it three times in one week I can see why. It’s rich and gooey and very naughty! We served it with homemade raspberry ice cream, raspberry coulis and meringue crumb (to add a bit of texture).
Our cheeses were supplied by the brilliant Millies. Millies is an independent, family run foodstore and they have a great cheese counter. The cheeses we picked were some of our favourite ones that we’d discovered at Homage to Fromage (Leeds’ amazing cheese club) over the last few months. These were Black Bomber cheddar (a creamy, buttery cheese from Snowdonia cheeses with an amazing tang); smoked Ribblesdale (a smoked goats cheese that is light and mild and very delicious); and Yorkshire Blue (perhaps the best cheese ever – it has the taste of blue cheese without being too acidic or overpowering). These came with homemade oatcakes, rhubarb chutney and pickled onions. The beer for this was Innis and Gunn’s Rum Cask. This beer is vibrant and spicy and well suited to strong cheeses or chocolate. Before our guests finally exploded we provided tea and coffee and mini lime and pistachio cupcakes to finish off a successful meal.
The verdict? Well Innis and Gunn beer can definitely be paired well to vegetarian food. The feedback for the couplings was very good indeed and people were desperate to find out where they could get their hands on the beer (Morrisons, Sainsburys and Tesco we’re told!). The beers are potent but delicious, so guests left rosy cheeked and smiling from ear to ear! In terms of the food we were pleased with the response and it cemented our commitment to bringing exotic flavours to Leeds – which cuisine shall we do next?!… We’ve just unveiled some brand some summer dates actually. They’re booking up fast so bag your place!
Once again, a huge thanks goes to our 28 lovely guests who came through the doors over the weekend, Nick for the fabulous photos and Richard for being the most organised washer up-er we know!
Our foodie friends Jo and Joe of Food and Biscuits paid their first visit to the Manor, have a read on their take on the night.