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.
In a change to the usual proceedings at the Manor, we did away with the traditional set up of canapes, starters, etc and served up what I affectionately called “a relentless onslaught of food”. In reality, we served up an array of taster dishes, leading up to a family-style feast for mains. Which is how the Chinese tend to eat, so why deviate!? Our guests were a really lively bunch, some repeat, but mainly new guests – some having travelled from York and Manchester to be with us that evening.
We kicked off proceedings with a wonderful lychee fizz cocktail by resident mixologist Dan. This was a real fragrant mix of lychee, vodka, grenadine and soda water to get the night started. So, onto the food! To tantilise the tastebuds we served up some Chengdu wontons (Chengdu being the capital of the Sichuan province) which were paired with a Sichuan pepper and chilli-sesame sauce – tongue numbingly delicious! These were swiftly followed by phoenix tail prawns – fried for literally seconds until perfectly cooked, in a crunchy tempura-style batter and paired with our homemade sweet chilli jam.
Next to follow was our unannounced dish of hot & sour soup – this was a really beautifully flavoured soup, which was exactly that, hot and sour. This used some really traditional ingredients such as dried wood ear mushrooms (which scared Dan somewhat when they expanded and overflowed after being soaked) and pickled Sichuan vegetables. This was so clean and fresh in flavour and set the guests up for the next course of Dan Dan Noodles (So good they named them twice!) These noodles were hot and fiery and as with all Sichuan cooking, lip numbingly delicious. Topped with crunchy pork and sichuan peppercorns, Dan and I were found eating the leftovers as our after supperclub treat!
Next were the mains which formed the bulk of our banquet! Platters of braised beef in sichuan dressing, sea bass with a chinese “salsa verde”, red cooked butternut squash, aubergine with a sesame sauce and pickled cucumber with chilli took to the table.
The beef was slow cooked for three hours before being shredded and dressed with sesame, spring onion and Sichuan flavours, Our guests seemed to loved the fresh spin on braised beef.The grilled sea bass was topped with a spicy coriander, mint, basil and chilli salsa – and also had a good reception
The squash had been cooked in a spiced soy stock which I personally couldn’t get enough of and the aubergine tasted like a Chinese take on baba ganouch, which we both loved. The cucumber added a clean freshness to cut through the myriad of flavours.
Surprisingly we still had more food to throw at our guests, and as a palate cleansing pre-dessert, Dan served up a delicious melon sorbet, which was lovely with a dash of gin! (Cook’s treat :))
Our dessert was freestyled and not from the book. Given the Chinese love for custard tarts, we thought it would be fun to play on this. Dan made an utterly delicious mango and ginger creme brulee and this was accompanied by a mango coulis and my stem ginger ice cream. The combination was heavenly and we even converted some creme brulee and ginger haters!
Top top everything off, the cupcakes made a return as petit fours, this time of a coconut and lime variety.
I won’t lie and say this event wasn’t hard work – Both Dan and I worked solidly throughout the whole day and the evening before prepping for our dishes and for us we were so pleased that our guests seemed to love it. We particularly liked the interaction between everyone by serving the food family style and whilst we won’t be doing this all the time it’s definitely one we’ll repeat in the future.
Next up is our Jerusalem event in a mere three weeks! We’ve already agreed the menu and we’ll be publishing this later in the week. We’ve also agreed on our next set of dates after June, so keep your eyes peeled in May where we’ll be announcing the dates and give you an opportunity to book on!