You know it’s the countdown to Christmas and the new year when we’ve put on a festive supperclub! And this year it was the turn of Ottolenghi’s glamorous book Nopi as our inspiration and guide. Based on the food from his Soho restaurant of the same name, this recipe book starts with a massive disclaimer about how hard all the recipes are! True, most recipes are two or three pages long, but we found that with a bit of forward reading, lots of recipe testing and advanced preparation, most were absolutely fine. Ottolenghi and cheffing partner Scully have translated the recipes so that they can move from a professional kitchen into the amateur realm.
We opted for a lunch for this event – mainly because we then get to go out at the weekend too! We hosted a very rowdy and appreciative lot, which is surely the point of a suppperclub. It was great to fill the house with lots of festive cheer, I certainly feel a bit more Christmassy now anyway!
Guests were welcomed with a spicy ginger and coriander martini. Russian vodka was shaken with a fresh ginger syrup, lime juice, toasted coriander seed and fresh coriander. The lime and ginger were the first things to punch with this drink, the coriander notes a subtle after thought. Nopi has an exciting range of cocktails in the back of the book so do check them out.
Canapes were headed by Susie’s filthily gorgeous brisket croquette. Brisket is slow cooked for hours in a rich Asian masterstock spiked with cinnamon, start anise and orange peel amongst the many herbs. Very festive indeed! The meat is then shredded, breadcrumbed and fried. Served alongside as a dipping sauce, the masterstock is reduced to a dark glossy syrup – truly sweet, sticky and umami! This was swiftly followed by Dan’s delicate corn cakes, which were light and airy like mini souffles. They had earthy notes from cumin and celery seed, plus the sweet corn. A tangy slaw of apple and beetroot gave them a dash of colour and acidity. You could serve larger ones of these as a veggie starter.
We then moved on to a series of small plates, which is how the food was served at Nopi when Susie and I went for a lunch there a couple of years ago. First up was Susie’s purple sprouting broccoli with chilli and skordalia, which is a creamy chilli spiked olive oil mash. The broccoli is charred and served up alongside. Crunchy, creamy and spicy and delicious veggie starter before we moved onto the more meaty dishes. I had my eye on the buttermilk cod with urid daal. Delicate pieces of cod were marinated in punchy spices and buttermilk, the latter making the cod quite firm and silky. The urid daal was flavoured only with fresh aromatics, no dried spices, which created a very light and subtle curry. The result was a very comforting dish, but if I’m honest the buttermilk marinade made the cod taste ever so slightly overdone. I also made a yoghurt version for a guest who cannot eat buttermilk and I thought this was better!
The mains kick started with a luscious piece of Japanese style chicken. Chicken thighs were marinated in a bizarre burnt miso, brown sugar and mirin sauce. This gave it a rich umami and butterscotch flavour, which when paired with juicy chicken and crispy burnt edges was very moreish! This dish is Ottolenghi at his best because it fuses flavours and ingredients that you wouldn’t normally taste together. The Japanese chicken came with more of Middle Eastern style salsa – pomegranate and walnut – as well as a sumac flavoured onion salad. The sweetness of the chicken and the intense tang and freshness of the salsa and salad were very disorienting for the senses but enjoyable nonetheless. Susie’s final savoury flourish was smoked lamb rack. The racks of lamb were marinaded overnight in garlic, ginger and coriander, then smoked over basmati rice before being griddled until pink. Rather imparting a smoked flavour it adds a toasty aroma to the lamb. Alongside the juicy cutlets, Susie also served a tahini and lemon aubergine puree, picked kohlrabi and a vivid green jalapeno sauce. Again, a real mix of sharp, spicy and earthy flavours!
To take us into the sweets Susie served up a frozen version of one of Nopi’s cocktails as a sorbet – pineapple and sage. Sugar syrup is infused with sage leaves, cloves and cardamom before being blended with the fruit imparting an almost medicinal flavour to the mix which was delicious! I then moved on to the main event. I’ll be honest with you here, picking the dessert was an absolute nightmare as we had a dairy free guest to cater for – no cream or butter, eek! Help was on hand, however, with a very retro coconut flavoured tapioca. Tapioca, the childhood enemy of many a guest, we hope we have been able to redeem it for some! This version was rich with coconut cream and palm sugar. I found I had to up the sweetness to suit my palate and also added in some run and cinnamon to make it a bit more festive. The creamy tapioca came topped with caramelised bananas flambéed in a rich rum sauce and finished off with fresh coconut that had been glaced. All the bowls came back scraped clean so I hope it was enjoyed!
As coffees and teas were sent out Susie dusted the petit four with festive icing sugar – these were coffee and pecan friands, which weren’t so much petit but grand!
And so that brings us to the end of our 2015 events, which has been a very fun year indeed. We started with Ottolenghi and ended with Ottolenghi, with some detours via Scandinavia, America, Spain and France – as you can see we’re very diverse! We’re booked up until next spring and 2016 looks set to take us to Eastern Europe, Latin America and…. Nigel Slater’s kitchen! Fear not it you’ve not got tickets for these events, we always announce cancellations on this blog and on twitter, plus there’ll be more events in 2016 to pounce on. For now, have a lovely Christmas and a prosperous new year!