Two years ago I hit the big 3-0 and as part of a ‘things to do before I’m 30’ list I thought I’d copy the likes of London and start up my own supperclub. It seemed far too a frightening thing to do all by myself and so I partnered up with my baking champ friend Sticky Pinny. People either thought we were bonkers for inviting strangers into my house and charging them for food, or they were completely intrigued by it. Now over 26 events, around 500 guests, and about 4000 plates of food later we’re still going strong and celebrating our two years as Leeds’ longest running secret supperclub.
Last year to celebrate our first anniversary we got blog readers to vote for what we should cook based on some of our most popular dishes from the past year of cooking. This year, however, we thought we’d give our own recipes a go. Readers will know that usually we base our events around a single cookbook in order to give them some use away from our cram packed book shelves! Anyway it’s our birthday so we thought it was our turn to shine!
If I had to sum up our menu then it was modern British with a French influence. We have great food suppliers in the shape of Leeds Market and Keelham Hall Farm shop, so we are always influenced by what is abundant, in season and what we would want to eat ourselves. What’s more, in honour of our celebration we added two more courses in the shape of fish and cheese!
Our guests were a good mix of old and new. It does hearten me that there are still lots of people who are new to the supperclub scene and who are keen to come and dine with us. It’s lovely to have our repeat diners back again but new faces keep it interesting as one of the main reasons we do this is to meet new friends and fellow foodies.
First up I designed a cocktail that would sum up the Manor in a glass. This was a lightly sparkling elderflower, blackberry and gin fizz spiked with homemade blackberry puree. This was accompanied by Susie’s delicate and elegant canapés. These came in the shape of cubes of cheesy polenta topped with seared beef and a red chilli salsa – an pop of spice, tender meat and crunch in one bite. A quail smoked salmon scotch egg that was made using salmon that had been smoked in our own smoker (over hickory chips), delicate but with a crunchy exterior. Finally, as Susie is well known for her cupcakes, she thought it would be fun to design a savoury cupcake. This came in the form of a pear and walnut cake topped with a Yorkshire Blue mousse – classic flavours in one cupcake.
The amouse bouche was a pumpkin veloute with sage oil and sage crisps – an autumnal mouthful in one little cup, that whetted the appetite for the feast of food!
Our starter was a chicken liver parfait that I had been keen to try my hand at. Sautéed chicken livers were blended with lots of cream, butter and madeira to make a smooth and velvety mousse. Before serving this was brûléed (Heston style!) to give a sweet and crunchy topping. This was served in mini pots with homemade bread and slow roasted tomatoes that were served in a bloody Mary dressing.
We turned to our smoker again to inspire the fish course. This was a home smoked trout salad with fennel, rocket and pumpkin. The beautiful trout from was from Leeds market. They were only smoked for 15 mins and this produced the most succulent, creamy flesh.This was served on top of a salad of finely chopped fennel, rocket, red onion, roast pumpkin and crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds. A dressing of sour cream, horseradish and lemon bound this all together for a light but elegant dish.
Readers will know that our favourite meat to serve is a nice bit of pork and so Susie prepared pork three ways – pork belly, which was brined overnight slow roasted until meltingley tender. A pork cheek “bon bon” – shredded confit pork cheeks, breadcrumbed and fried to created contrasting textures. The third piece of pork was a pan fried pork fillet. This was served with two types of cauliflower – velvety puree and crunchy roasted florets that were spiced with cumin. Salsa verde added freshness and tang, whilst roasted beetroots gave a sweet earthy flavour.
Over the past two years, based on guest feedback, we’ve really scaled back on our portion sizes in order to give our guests the room to try as many of our treats as possible. As a result we didn’t feel too guilty pulling out a cheese course as an extra treat for our guests. I always like the idea of a cheese course but never have any room for it! I was keen to showcase a local cheese, which came in the form of Adel Blue, a creation of our friend and fellow supperclub owner Mario Olianas. Mario runs a market stall at the farmers markets in Leeds and sells an array of his homemade Italian goodies, which includes his own cheeses. He makes pecorino style cheeses using raw sheep milk from Leeds. Some of my favourites include his matured pecorino and this gorgeously tangy blue. This was served atop homemade oatcakes and homemade gooseberry jam which I thought would be a good contrast to the salty, tangy cheese.
After all that food Susie brought out a deliciously sour and refreshing morello cherry sorbet with a hit of lime – great for balancing out the palate after all those contrasting flavours.
For desserts I wanted to design a mini trio of treats to showcase a range of seasonal flavours. One of our most popular desserts from the last year was a mango and ginger crème brûlée that I made for our Chinese event. One guest even proclaimed it as (probably) the best crème brulee in Yorkshire! To make it I scalded cream with lime zest, ginger root and vanilla. Egg yolks were whipped up with sugar and ground ginger and then combined with the cream to make a custard. At the bottom of the brûlée was a mango and lime puree. Once baked and brûléed this made a very comforting dessert indeed, full of warmth and depth of flavour. Also on the trio was a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. I took inspiration from Ina Garten for this, although I simplified her recipe as I think she has far too many unnecessary stages. It’s a very dirty recipe full of cream and sugar! Of all the people I’ve served it to I’ve never come across anyone who does not like it! The final element to the trio was a crunchy and buttery almond sable biscuit topped with blackberry curd and pistachios. The curd was made up of blackberries I’d picked earlier in the year. The sharp berries and creamy curd are an interesting taste sensation.
To accompany coffee and teas were delicate little chocolate biscuits that were topped with a chocolate ganache that was spiked with fresh raspberries and sloe gin. These were melt in the mouth and the freshness of the berries were a good contrast to the heavy cocoa flavour.
Finally, as if that wasn’t enough, Susie prepared cupcakes as a take home treat for the guests – two varieties were on offer. The first was a spiced carrot and pistachio, topped with a fluffy, orange and cream cheese frosting. The other was a cocoa rich chocolate cupcake, topped with ganache and one of Susie’s homemade salted caramel chocolate truffles. Both cakes were inspired by the Great British Bake off, which you can read more about, here.
What I didn’t mention was that on our second of the two celebration events, our friend and comedy song writer Jo Stephenson joined us for some fun entertainment. She even managed to get guests to join in! So a big thank you to Jo for helping to make the night special with her funny foodie songs. Other thanks go to Mario for his cheese, and to Kerstin Rodgers for inspiring us to do this in the first place, and of course our guests.
Running a supperclub is hard on top of a full time job. Both Susie and I have been unbelievably busy these past few weeks and with the supperclub thrown in as well we fell into deep sleeps as soon as the last guests left! However we still love doing this as a hobby and as long as we still love doing it we’ll find the time to fit it in. We don’t run it as a money making scheme, it’s a pleasure to do it so long as we have good ingredients to cook with and hungry mouths to feed.
Anyway we’ll be releasing some new dates on 1st November so keep your eyes peeled! To whet your appetite we’re thinking about doing events inspired by Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein’s India and Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II. We’re even bringing back the alcohol pairings and planning a partnership with Ilkley Brewery. If this sounds like your cup of tea (or pint of beer) then be sure to sign up and follow this blog to be the first in line for tickets when they go on sale.