Last weekend we served up a lovely small plates lunch to some of our wonderful guests. Using Nigel Slater’s beautiful Kitchen Diaries III as our guide, the food was simple, yet with stunning flavours to really awaken those tastebuds.
First off, our guests were greeted with our Raspberry Cooler cocktail, a delightful mix of gin, Chambord, muddled raspberries and bitter lemon. To accompany the aperitif were our canapes. First off were Dan’s Nduja bruschetta. Nduja is a rather filthy, spreadable spicy Italian sausage. The spiciness was paired with creamy goats cheese and piquant olive for a lovely little mouthful.
The other canapes were described as “apple and stilton dumplings” which were in fact little apple and stilton pies. Apple puree and stilton, encased in puff pastry – these were served with a sweet and spiced red onion and golden sultana chutney. A truly delightful morsel.
The next course was my citrus cured salmon with fennel and orange. Salmon was cured for a couple of days in salt, lemon and orange zest, dill, mint and gin and then thinly sliced. A crunchy tangy, acidic fennel salad and sliced of in season blood oranges created a dish full of contrasting flavours and textures.
Griddled lamb with tomato, ginger and basil swiftly followed. This was an interesting dish where the lamb, once griddled pink, is then steeped in a marinade of the above ingredients blitzed up with lots of mustard seeds. The result is a fragrant pesto fusion which combined with the meaty lamb was a delight. This was served with a simple pea shoot and radish salad.
We then moved onto some of Nigel’s more gutsy dishes. The next course was Dan’s Smoked mackerel and tender stem broccoli gratin which was creamy, warming and full of interesting textures and flavours.
The final savoury course was a flavour sensation – beef short rib slow cooked for hours in ginger, anise, soy and apple juice. The soft meat came with a smooth cauliflower puree and lots of the delicious cooking liquor. A tangy chive puree was used to cut through the intense, but enjoyable richness of the dish.
Dan’s beautiful dessert was a take on Nigel’s walnut meringue. Nigel made his as a giant tray bake with apples and custard. The walnut meringue mix made lovely, chewy, nutty meringues but was quite hard to work with and so Dan deconstructed the dessert. Little bowls were filled with a delicate, chilled, vanilla custard topped with gently poached forced rhubarb and then finished off with the walnut meringue, a rhubarb curd and fragrant rhubarb syrup. This was light, fresh and full of spring flavours – perfect after a heavy meal.
Our final flourish were my not so petit fours of maple and hazelnut shortbread biscuits, crumbly, nutty and moreish!
All in all this was a fun yet really relaxed, calm affair – just like Nigel himself. If you don’t have the book, then I would recommend it, rather than a straighforward cookbook, it’s a beautiful memoir and ode to food.
Thanks to our lovely guests who bought us gifts of a bay tree, sourdough starter, raw brownies and wine – you are all very kind!
Our next event coming up will be our Rick Stein inspired Byzantine dinner. We cannot wait, see you soon!