Spanish Sun Brightens up the Manor

Amidst torrential rain showers we brought a little bit of Spanish sunshine to Dinner at the Manor, courtesy of the hit cook book from Rick Stein. Susie had been raving about his series last year and the book caught my eye at Christmas when he did a ‘best of’ Spain as a Christmas special.

I promptly wanted to eat everything he made. This colourful book features all of the different regions that make up Spain, highlighting the diversity within the country and the reliance on seasonal local ingredients within Spanish cuisine. Stein freely admits that his recipes are his ‘take’ on Spanish cooking, but this perhaps makes it a bit more accessible to a British audience.

We went far and wide to obtain the specialist ingredients required, including a trip to Borough market in London which is home to the excellent Brindisa deli. It hosts a cornucopia of Spanish delicacies including dried peppers (a snip at 40p each!), pimento and fresh padron peppers.

Our own feast started with a tapas selection for canapes. These included moreish little potato tortilla bites; meatballs made from pork, serrano ham, lemon and green olive – all topped off with a rich sherry and tomato sauce. Also on offer were marinated olives, funky little fritters made with pimento and manchego cheese, and finally the famous padron peppers. The peppers supposedly have a hot one for every 10 peppers although nobody reported finding any. (Maybe we should have thrown a jalapeno in for good measure!) It was hard work preparing three different hot canapes but they were fun to make and were gobbled up by our guests.

Guests were then welcomed down to the dining room. We’re experimenting with a different layout at the moment. Guests now sit round one large table, rather than two separate tables. This really opened the room up and meant that guests could be more sociable with each other. It seemed to be a success. They were welcomed down to dinner with a shot of unusual white gazpacho. Served cold, this was made with white bread, olive oil, sherry vinegar and almonds and then topped off with white grapes and olive oil. Not the most obvious of combinations but refreshing nonetheless!

This month, Susie looked after the starters. We served a choice of trout escabeche with a spicy fennel salad. Escabeche is a dish where cooked fish is marinated in a sweet yet sour marinade of oils, vinegars, vegetable and herbs. The trout was pink and soft and its oiliness and was well counter balanced by the clean, crunchy fennel.

Also on offer was the popular choice of aubergine stuffed with lamb, moorish spices and manchego cheese. This is what Rick made on his Christmas special and had me salivating! It’s a bit like a Spanish version of a mousakka for one!

I had a complex set of main courses to battle with, which all required last minute cooking! On offer was a crispy chicken leg that had been slow cooked in cider with chorizo, leeks, carrots, garlic and herbs. This was quite a subtle dish overall, but with substantial flavours coming through from the chorizo.

The fish option was home salted cod. This was salted overnight and resulted in a firm but flaky fish that is poached briefly and served with roasted peppers and a romesco sauce. Romesco is a roasted tomato and dried pepper sauce that is served cold, it gets an unctuous oily element from the hazlenuts and olive oil that go into it, I could eat it out of the jar with a spoon! The cod, whilst not too salty, tasted of the sea and is quite a substantial fish when it has been cured. Compliments were sent to the fishmonger, which was Leeds Market by the way! Side dishes for both were classic potatas bravas and stewed summer veg. We also had veggie guests and so they were treated to chargrilled baby leeks and portobello mushrooms with roasted peppers and romesco sauce. It felt like a juggling act getting it all out but we made it!

Our tradition now is to serve a palate cleansing sorbet after the main courses. This month was the turn of a red wine sorbet! This consisted of rioja, lemonade, lemons and sugar. A bit like a frozen sangria! I have to admit that Rick doesn’t have a recipe for this so I used a Jamie Oliver, eek don’t tell Rick!

It was back to Susie for puds we offered a choice of sour cherry tart (sometimes referred to as a Gateaux Basque) or a crema catalana. The tart was beautiful to look at (more of Susie’s fine baking at work!). The pastry was a bit like a soft shortbread made with almonds. The filling was a morello cherry compote with a hint of Pernod and lemon. and it was a bit like a Basque take on a bakewell tart I guess.

The crema catalana is a soft set creme brulee infused with orange, lemon and cinnamon and burnished with crispy sugar. Both were served with light orange blossom ice cream, which was a bit of a cross between an ice cream and a sorbet. I’m glad I didn’t have to choose between the desserts as I would have wanted both! (Luckily we had leftovers so we had both as a late night treat!)

Coffee and tea was served with Susie’s trademark cupcakes. This month it was apple and cinnamon cakes, very sweet little morsels indeed. And so that was our whistlestop tour of Spain! Entertainment was provided by a very apt flamenco radio station which certainly got us all in a Mediterranean mood.

A couple of our guests Dave and Steph have written a review of their Spanish experience, read all about it here.

We’re taking a two month break now. Which is much needed as running the supperclub on top of a full time job is exciting but exhausting. We’ll be back in July and August for our summer events which although they are fully booked you can join our waiting list by emailing us. If you can’t make those then we can do private dining events for 8 to 12 people. Get in touch to discuss your needs. Finally, after another break in September we’ll be thinking about where to go next with the Manor. There has already been mention of a cheese themed night as well as a pie themed night. So watch this space!

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