A “Fishtastic” couple of nights… our report

Well we have now completed what have been our October dinners and our “Fishtastic Suppers”

It was a full house again for both nights and with some old and new faces eager to partake in our fishy inspired menu.

One guest quizzed me hard as to what motivates me to open my home to complete strangers and spend not only two nights serving dinner to them but all the work that goes into shopping, preparing and deciding what to feed them! More on that front in a future post I think!

Well it is now nearly two years since we started this little venture (February 2010 were our first dinners!) and we seem to have now got quite a following of people eager to sample what we do each month and our challenge each month is to come up with a menu and theme that will continue to excite our punters!!!

I am often asked what do I like to cook best and I have to say fish is pretty high up there as there are so many varieties and ways in which this product can be handled. We decided this month to try and showcase assorted processes and styles. Preserved fish, shellfish and a fish most had never heard of!

So with no further ado the menu was decided and we kicked the evenings off with a welcome drink and some toasts topped with smoked salmon rillettes a coarse pate that had the addition of some Wasabi heat to it and some simple Japanese Rice Crackers with dried seaweed as fish inspiration!

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Our first course “A taste of Catalonia” inspired by our holiday home in the Roussillon region of France was a combination of roasted red peppers and some marinated anchovy fillets! It was a picture on the plate as I laid out the strips of red pepper alternately with an anchovy fillet and then sprinkled some extra olive oil over them and then a drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction and a toasted slice of homemade ciabatta style bread! It certainly was demolished with gusto and was a good light start to the meal ahead!

Next came the prawn and garlic risotto. I am a great fan of the marriage of prawns with garlic and thought this would be a great way of putting the two together. Risotto for me should always be cooked to order… it takes a bit of experience to ensure the rice is slowly cooked to ensure the stock is absorbed and the grains grow in size. I used a total of just over two kilos of prawns so not a cheap dish but these were added just as the risotto was finished cooking so the cooked lightly in the hot rice and then the addition of some mascarpone cream provided a lovely unctuous texture and finally a spoonful or two of wild garlic pesto added as well!

Guests comments were complimentary with one guest stating I had converted him to risotto having previously hated it and one guest with an Italian heritage cleared his bowl so a good sign!

The main course was then something of an experiment for me in so much I was using a fish that is not widely known about or that easy to obtain. I have seen it for sale in one major supermarket but my local ones were not stocking it so it meant a trip to the Chinese supermarket Wing Yip near Croydon as I had previously purchased it from here for our Chinese dinners with Chef But!

I am talking about the Panga fillets, a white fish that come frozen as large individual fillets that when I defrosted I cut into smaller sized pieces and then beat out thinner to be able to encase a piece of banana within. Rolled into a ball these were then floured, egg washed and rolled in breadcrumbs and flaked almonds. Now looking a bit like a scotch egg these were then deep fried in hot oil. The way we then served them was atop a hollandaise sauce – an emulsion of egg yolks and butter with the addition of reduced orange juice. This is what is classically known as a Sauce Maltaise. Some green beans and boiled new potatoes were the garnish.

Now the name for this dish has something of a story!  The dish for me originated in the period of when I lived and worked in Switzerland some thirty plus years ago. I worked in a very smart restaurant that was operated by a gentleman by the name of Arthur Moergeli  (he was a former senior director of Movenpick) Well he produced this dish using dover sole fillets and it was a big seller on the menu and was a reworking of a classic combination of sole and grilled banana and flaked almonds known as a sole caprice. I can only think the dish was named MacArthur as a nod towards the “Scotch Egg” look alike tendency and his name Arthur… at least that is my reasoning as I have not been able to find any other reason in my research! The panga substitution worked well as the fish is both delicate and versatile and went well with all the flavours going on… the plates again came back clean and some appreciative comments made!

Finally as it was “National Chocolate Week” I had luckily planned to finish the meal with another classic combination. A dark rich cholesterol busting Chocolate Marquise with a bitter coffee sauce! My practice run of the chocolate terrine produced a very dense dark chocolate slab that I softened slightly the next time with the addition of some whipped double cream. The combination of dark chocolate and coffee worked well and was a great way to finish this meal and it seemed to go down well with the ubiquitous glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes we served with it.

So that was it the “fishtastic” suppers were complete and we had fed our guests… Now we move onto our next dinners in November where we will be showcasing beer brewed by Penshurst based brewer Yudhistra Moodley of Moodley’s Beers. We will also be posting soon our plans for Christmas and then dates for 2012 so keep watching this space!

Cheers

Hari

Going Underground… a report

Well it was possibly our biggest challenge yet… to cook and serve our dinners in a cheese cellar… what made us even think we could do it? Well I have to say I do like a challenge but this was going to be a big one for a number of reasons.

Firstly we were going to base the menu on the cheese… namely Winterdale Shaw a hard cheddar cheese. The idea to use cheese at every stage was not too hard as I am a big fan of cheese but in cooking it is a challenge to get the balance right.

However, perhaps the biggest challenge was a kitchen had to be built. In fact when we first mooted this back in January when I helped make the cheeses the kitchen was going to be on the first floor of the barn!!!

Well the kitchen is still not quite finished so it meant we needed to be adaptable. To serve a dinner in a dark and damp cellar meant we needed to think not only about a workable menu but more important a menu that could be prepared from a kitchen that comprised of a small domestic oven, two double ring electric hotplates and a gas paella lamp.

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So the menu was constructed around the cheese and we thought it only fitting to use (as much as possible) the produce local to the dairy and farm so chose to use Pork from Roundwood Orchard Pigs as the main course.

So having lugged equipment up to the venue and then also roped in the assistance of fellow cheesemaker Jason we were ready along with Cheesemakers Robin & Carla Betts to provide dinner to fourty guests over two nights.

We had tables lugged into the cellar and then thanks to nearby resident Harry we had chairs and also some apples and damsons scrumped from his orchard! We also decided the lighting needed to be fitting for the cellar so with assorted lighting including over 200 tea lights the caves along with a six figure sum worth of cheese we were ready for the guests to descend the steep steps to the eat their dinner.

Firstly though we served a welcome drink in the shop area along with assorted nibbles. Using the cheese that we had assisted in making we served some “retro” cheese cubes on sticks with silverskin pickled onions, baby gherkins and fresh pineapple cubes. Also a classic welsh rarebit and then some rather scrummy cheddar cheese & cauliflower beignets or fritters if you prefer! These seemed to be a big hit!

So after a welcome by Robin & Carla the guests then made their way to the tables and dinner commenced!!! First came the starter a double baked cheese soufflé served with a watercress and apple salad dressed with a local cobnut oil. Plates when removed from the tables were licked clean and guests seemed to be getting into their stride as they tucked into the home made breads.

Main course next was using the local Pork. This was to be a tasting plate of three different cuts and cooking methods to showcase the free-range meat. The belly was firstly very slowly poached in lard infused with herbs and then just before serving the skin was crisped up and was then served on top of some Bramley apple puree. A goulash made with the shoulder cut was firstly marinated in sweet paprika and then sealed and the cooking liquor had the addition of sauerkraut and grated potato and then slowly braised for a couple of hours.

The final cut was a bold one… Pigs liver… not everyone’s favourite but it seemed to be a hit both nights. The pig had been slaughtered on the Monday and I picked the meat up on the Tuesday and had soaked the liver in milk since the Wednesday, soaking in milk helps to tenderise the meat and also helps to remove the excess blood. The garnish for the liver that we literally pan fried last minute was some fried onions and the garnish with all of this was cheesy mashed potatoes and of course some green beans!!! It was interesting to hear from several guests how much they had enjoyed the meat.

One admitted he had not eaten pork for over 30 years but had thoroughly enjoyed it and we even converted one guest to mashed potato!!!

Again clean plates were cleared from the tables and then we served the cheese made back on January 24th… we simply gave our guests a wedge and served it with our porridge oat biscuits and a little dish of home made banana and date chutney and some more of our scrumped fruit!!!

Finally we had decided to make a classic junket using the Betts unpasteurised milk and rennet. This illustrated the start of the cheese making process as it is the warming of the milk to then be set using rennet that starts the whole ball rolling!! Well having had a dummy run we made the junket by heating the milk with some sugar, vanilla and freshly grated nutmeg we then added the rennet and poured it into the chosen moulds. Leaving the junket for a couple of hours to set. It was certainly a challenge to get the quantities of rennet right for the volume of milk. Robin uses circa 230ml of rennet for 1000 litres of milk and we found we used no more than 5-8ml for 2.5litres of milk and it was setting as we poured so we had to be quick!!

The junket was served with a warm freshly baked shortbread biscuit and topped by a spoonful of tart Damson puree. A shot glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes served alongside! I think some relished others were sceptical it was certainly a talking point.

Coffee served with our homemade chocolates was the final flourish. We had done it dinner served in a cheese cave and the guests were happy!!! It was a real pleasure and without the involvement and passion of Robin & Carla would never have happened.

I must also say big thanks to helpers Jason fellow cheese maker (he was the stoic behind the scenes chef who ensured it all came together on each night) and then Julia who is a regular assistant front of house at our events now more commonly know as “The Hands” since an article that appeared in the September issue of the Saga Magazine!

As all the guests departed along with a sample pack of our cheese and brochure from Roundwood Orchard Pig. We trust all arrived home safe and sound and will bring back some pleasing memories of Going Underground!

Cheers

Hari

More Chinese Memories…

My thanks to local photographer Alex Whittle  for sending me these photos…he was one of the guests on the Saturday night.

He apologised profusely as he normally does not drink and snap as well but I think he did quite well to capture the noodle demo so well… He was amazed how quick Mr But had made them…as he blinked there they were!

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Please check the following link for the Video of this demo!

A weekend of Chinese Memories…

When we decided to open for two nights in August we knew we had to do something a bit special as it was going to be hard to entice guests as many would be away on holidays…

Well it seemed only right and proper we introduced you to Mr Kam Po But a master Chinese chef who has just recently retired from over 30 years cooking at Ken Lo’s Memories of China in London. He has been a friend for a great number of years and is godfather to my daughter and we have often done special events together.

I also helped teach many years ago when the Belgravia restaurant also had a cookery school and so have witnessed many times B’s prowess with a wok. Many years ago we also use to meet for a game of tennis on a Sunday morning and then decamp to Soho for a late lunch of Dim Sum and even followed that by a late afternoon tea at a swanky London five star hotel.

Having also taken many friends to the restaurant on numerous occasions and also introduced many foreign friends to the art of fine Chinese cuisine we thought it would be fun to host a couple of banquet  meals showcasing his talents and more importantly hopefully introduce him to the world of underground dining.

We composed a menu together as I know my kitchen and it’s limitations and we thought it would be good to balance the dishes to reflect some of B’s signature dishes.  The dishes I insisted upon were his Mongolian Lamb made with Leg of Lamb and then slow cooked shin of beef – a dish not often found on a restaurant menu but although slightly heavy perhaps for a warm summers evening is an example of Chinese comfort food at its best!!!

Well we had a full house on both nights with a good mix of new and returning guests. One guest on the Saturday evening was a former work colleague from my days as a hotel and restaurant inspector and he travelled a sixty mile round trip to savour once again Mr But’s cooking as he had fond memories of a meal and cookery demo we all had once at the restaurant where some dishes then became the benchmarks at other Chinese restaurants should they wish to gain a guide book entry.

Mr But has cooked for many a celebrity, Princess Diana was a regular as was Princess Margaret, Sir Paul McCartney held a celebratory Birthday vegetarian lunch when he purchased the rights to the Michael Jackson songbook. There was the episode when he refused a table to Elizabeth Taylor as she wanted to eat late one night after closing time and then there was the King of Tonga who stationed a food taster in the kitchen to sample the dishes before he did!

B has also often been the media face for the restaurant on numerous occasions as he is a master of the art of hand drawn noodles. A magical process of taking simple plain flour adding water and then transforming them in to thin noodles all by hand with absolutely no machines !!! It took him many years to master the art and he has now appeared many times on TV demonstrating this skill. Twice on the Generation Game, BBC Food & Drink show, the kids programme Motormouth and on assorted European TV networks as well. He was the first Chinese chef to demonstrate on TV how to make Crispy Seaweed and he was scorned by fellow chefs as it forced the price down in restaurants as the secret was out it was just fried spring green leaves!

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Well following the welcome glass of Cremant D’Alsace that guests partook of out on our decked terrace we sat them on two tables and served them the assorted dishes as Mr But plated them up. There was an unusual starter of Peking smoked fish. Fresh Plaice fillets that were marinated first then fried and marinated again and once cold cut into bite sized pieces. It took him a total of some three hours to prepare this dish alone!!! A smoky flavour achieved from the marinade was something to savour and appreciated greatly by one fellow chef who had never sampled it before!  Next came a Classic Prawn Toasts made with minced prawn and then topped by sesame seeds and deep fried, another guest remarked he had never had such a generous prawn topping and was the best he had ever tasted!

A favourite of Mrs HC’s is the crispy smoked chicken that was tossed in a dry wok with spring onion garlic and ginger and served on a bed of crispy seaweed. We also had some fresh scallops that were very quickly steamed in his wok and then topped with a piquant black bean sauce that complemented well with the delicate sweet scallop.

Next came the Mongolian Crispy Lamb, B had poached the lamb in a scented stock of spring onions, garlic, ginger and assorted spices, Star Anise, Cinammon, and Szechaun Peppercorns till tender and then the meat is left to cool and firm. To serve we deep fried the meat and served it with washed Iceberg Lettuce leaves that are used to wrap the meat with spring onions and cucumber and a spoonful of his special Yellow Bean Sauce. This is very much a signature dish and as he uses the leg cut as it is not as fatty as belly or shoulder.

The main course dishes then meant he was solidly cooking and plating up as soon as they were ready, some King Prawns quickly stir fried were mixed with sugar snap peas and the sauce of ginger spring onion and garlic commonly known as the “Trinity” meant this was a light and colourful way to kick off.

Next came his stir fried chicken breast with cashew nuts in a yellow bean sauce. Here he just coated the chicken with the sauce unlike others who serve it swimming in a gravy… it was positively divine and soon got knocked back.

The Shin of Beef quickly followed, the beef was firstly plunged into boiling water and then removed once bought to the boil, refreshed and then added back to the pan that had then been prepared with the cooking stock. Then gently simmered for two to three hours and water chestnuts were separately simmered in the cooking stock and then placed in the bottom of the little mini woks we then served the finish dish in, he thickened the the cooking liquor last minute and garnished with some shredded red chilli and coriander – it was his favourite dish of the night and mine too as I explained to guests this is what is termed true rustic chinese cooking and not a dish you would normally see on a menu very often and suited our banquet perfectly!

Then came the fish dish… he had lightly pre fried some Panga Fillets… a fish we had purchased at Wing Yip on our shopping trip… in a light flour and beaten egg so it was like a light batter, placed onto the serving plates it was then warmed in the oven just before serving he made a piquant Szechaun sauce that was spooned over the top and served… the fish was delicate and light and I was very impressed as I admitted to guests it was in fact a frozen fish and Mr But  was also pleased with the end result!

Finally he quickly poached some Pak Choy a crisp cabbage like Chinese vegetable in boiling water and then stir fried with garlic and ginger and arranged on the serving plate and topped with some stir fried Chinese Shittake Mushrooms to complete the dish, a light finish to complete the meal meant we had pulled it all off out of our domestic kitchen!!!

Yours truly then quickly knocked up the dessert I had planned, some grilled fresh pineapple that had been marinated in a stock sugar syrup infused with green cardamom and some slices of fresh banana and then a ball of Taywells finest Coconut Ice Cream and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds… a simple finish to what had been a big feast…

The guests on both nights were then treated to a noodle demonstration that was a fascinating insight into a skillful culinary display. One guest remarked how impressed they were but more impressive was how the whole process was conceived in the first instance and it was a breathtaking demo that was over in as another guest remarked was a “blink of the eye” and there was a board covered in noodles.

It had been a real pleasure to host such an evening and I do hope all the guests who came were impressed… Mr But and his wife Sue worked hard and B talked about a future return visit… I’m sure there will be a clammer for the places when we do!

B also had copies of his Memories Of China cookery book and managed to sell all the copies he had bought with him. If others wish to purchase a copy I am able to get more copies of the book at the greatly discounted price of £6.00 and will also get him to sign them… just email me your order via our Book Now page and we will organise!

I was delighted to see how complete strangers gelled under one common bond of “good food” and there was a true buzz around the tables and I believe some new friendships were formed… any thoughts and comments would be welcomed and we now look forward to our next event in early September! For details take a look here

Cheers

Hari

A celebration…

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A celebratory evening at Hari’s was something Dedo a returning customer was keen to have with a group of friends. So we duly obliged with an exclusive nights dinner.

Dedo had been recently at the not quite a bus pass dinner for Veronica and Dedo’s night was also a birthday celebration.

As the guests arrived the weather had finally cleared sufficiently for them to congregate on the garden deck terrace for their aperitif. This was a Kir Normande – dry cider with crème de cassis and the canapés… some Arancini deep fried rissoto balls, sliced German Mettwurst with some baby gherkins and then a smoked mackerel rilletes flavoured with horseradish kicked the evening off.

The first course we served was then ready so guests sat down and we served up a cherry tomato tartlet served with goats cheese and some simple salad leaves dressed in a raspberry vinegar and olive oil dressing.

Next came the roasted Pork Fillet wrapped in black forest ham served on a bed of mixed beans in a chilli salsa with some chorizo and a beer and caraway scented jus… well plates came back pretty well cleaned and the homemade bread was well used to mop up those last dregs of the sauce!

The party now in full swing was going well and we as in traditional French fashion served up the cheese selection next. The selection chosen for this dinner was a classic Spanish tangy Ewe’s milk Manchego that we served with some of our Banana & Date chutney, A good runny ripe Normandy Camembert and then our Hari’s Button made with some creamy St Agur and sherry soaked sultanas. Once again our porridge oat biscuits proved a hit and just to remind you all the recipe for them can be found in the previous post here. I was slightly reprimanded I should keep the recipe secret but I have to say I am more than happy to share it as I cannot claim it’s origin but an adaptation of someone elses creativity!!!

We then moved onto the final course that was a torte that I had done at a previous Hari dinner and knew would provide the right finish to the meal. The torte was a flourless chocolate hazelnut torte made using Nutella… that favourite chocolate hazelnut spread that Mrs HC often craves in her crepes. We served the wedge of the torte up with some local cherries stoned and turned into a compote with the addition of some fresh raspberries and a spoonful of Rote Grutze all laced with a splash of homemade Swiss Apricot schnapps. A dollop of Mascapone cream and a glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes was served as well and then I duly realised next morning I had forgotten to sprinkle some chopped roasted cobnuts on the finished plate as garnish…ooops!

A toast to Dedo with a glass of bubbly was served up along with their coffees – the night had been a lovely success and as guests departed Dedo passed over a table placemat that had a rather fitting comment written on the reverse… it makes it all worthwhile when guests really do appreciate what you do for them.

So now we are busy planning for the next two events firstly the afternoon teas that we are doing to raise money for the Hospice in the Weald and then the special Chinese banquets we are doing as extra dates in August as we are delaying our holidays to France to host these special dinners.

We are also planning our dates up to the end of the year so keep watching the Dates page for all the latest info…

Cheers

HC

To Hot to Handle… the story unfolds…

Well we were smoking this weekend with our special BBQ themed dinners… we were also blessed with the weather that came with it as we managed to stay pretty dry throughout!!!

We had decided to go with a BBQ and make use of our fire pit and also having come back from a short trip to Germany we were also lucky to bring back some special goodies with us… More on that in a moment.

We found demand to be good for tables and we were booked out within two days of opening the bookings so please note do not delay if you want to secure a place at future events.

We had a large party of twelve book the Saturday night so we thought we would use just the one large table for the Friday night as well. The assorted parties sharing the table seemed to work well and all the guests seemed to get on…Dependent on the style of the dinner something we might try again in the future…

So the food this month was influenced slightly by the purchases made in Germany. Firstly I wanted to use some dried green beans…these I had specially purchased via the Swiss supermarket Migros to be delivered to friends in Germany that I could pick up on our visit. The beans are known as Dörrbohnen and traditionally in Switzerland served like you would Sauerkraut with smoked sausage and boiled bacon. I had decided to initially soak for 24 hours in water then poach in a vegetable stock and serve them cold mixed with some freshly blanched green beans and a sun-dried tomato & chilli dressing as a salad…

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We kicked the meal off with a classic roasted red pepper stuffed with tomato, anchovy and garlic served with some slices of spicy Spanish Chorizo and cured Black Forest Ham. We also served a freshly baked Cheese & Herb loaf that was a new addition to my repertoire…

Having lit the BBQ about forty minutes prior to the guests arriving to ensure they were not too smoked out we had nice hot embers in which to cook the range of meats!! I had purchased some Kassler in fact for the BBQ I used a similar cut known as Nackern as it had a little more fat to keep it moist. Some Chicken thighs I had marinated in Indian “tikka” spices and then a Barbary Duck breast I sprayed with a honey and apple juice mix to lacquer the flesh. I also had bought back some Leberkäse that we also grilled and then a wonderfully smokey Krakauerschinken Würst that was gently heated on the edge. Finally pancetta wrapped scallops were cooked before all being plated up and served with the assorted salads. Some grilled Halloumi cheese was mixed with some chargrilled vegetables in a wild garlic pesto dressing that completed the offering!

We served a grated beetroot salad mixed with Greek yoghurt and lime, and a hot dressed potato salad that was served with roasted onions. Along with the bean salad the plates seemed to be stacked pretty high but all came back pretty much cleared!

I like to serve my cheeses after the main course in what is often termed the “French fashion” We served a simple selection this month that comprised of Cashel Blue from Ireland, a full flavoured Vintage Gouda and finally a soft, runny and unctuous Pié d’Angloys from France… all with our porridge oat biscuits that once again went down well.

Finally the dessert we decided upon was a tangy Lemon Posset. This is fundamentally a boiled double cream, sugar and lemon juice that will set slightly firm once chilled. It was topped with some local strawberries and a spoonful of Rote Grütze a summer fruit compote (also imported) and then a freshly made shortbread biscuit still warm alongside it all.

So that completed this months dinners…we hope you all enjoyed it and also liked the little extras we had bought back including a range of mustards including a rather scrummy Cologne Mustard flavoured with the local beer…?

It was a challenge I think we managed to pull off and now we turn our attentions towards the next events in July when we will be serving up a sumptuous and classical afternoon tea. This will also be a fundraising event in aid of our designated charity the Hospice in the Weald…

Cheers

Hari

Maybe Fun… Maybe not…the aftermath

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Well this months dinners were named “Maybe fun Maybe not”… well we can say definitely they were fun… I hope our guests felt the same… we certainly had a fair few “Newbies” this month who came to the dinners …

We had one couple keen to try us as she writes a food blog about her eating out experiences – I do hope her pictures came out all OK as I managed to forget to take that many!!! It sounded as though she was on an eating fest that weekend with a meal out in London planned for the next day. I look forward to reading her comments.

Another couple had motored from across the border in Surrey as she had seen the piece on the BBC’s One Show about Supper Clubs that had fired her enthusiasm to try one. Having found out about us via a “Google” search she and her partner braved the M25 to visit us and we hope we have inspired her now sufficiently to give it a go herself!

Another couple were nearby neighbours who live within spitting distance who on booking also wanted to check if we had sufficient parking in case they wanted to drive!!! Glad to say they managed the 50ft walk and left their car on their own driveway!!!

However, on the Friday we had some guests who we can say have been our loudest table yet…it always amazes me how we seem to get a buzz from the room at each dinner with the mix of guests we get – all ages and complete strangers…

This six had been to the “Right Royal Feast” and had booked again straight after this dinner – they certainly should have come with a decibel warning! There seemed to be an immediate buzz to the room and the noise levels only briefly dimmed when they had food in front of them. We normally find the evening mellows as drinks are consumed and food is eaten but this table seemed to go against the grain as they got louder and louder!!!

My front of house helper Julia (not sure why guests think she is Mrs HC?) had quite a challenge when they departed as she reminded them about our neighbours and “noise levels” I have to say we did check the next day with both sets if they were disturbed and am glad to say they were both fine. I promise when these guests book again (they are welcome to in case they are reading this and think they are now banned!) we will distribute cotton wool to neighbours and other guests just as a safety measure… it was certainly good to see so many really enjoying themselves!

So we served up another seasonal dinner which we were glad to say included two ingredients I love… Asparagus and English Strawberries… not together mind you. The asparagus kicked the meal off with a warm Goats Cheese and Asparagus flan served with dressed salad leaves. A simple light starter that got tucked into with relish and plates came back clean.

Next we served a roasted pork fillet that was placed on a bed of beans with chorizo in a spicy tomato chilli sauce and a then a beer and caraway scented jus. It was all served with some simple boiled Jersey Royals… again plates came back cleared.

Our cheese selection once again used our local cheddar Winterdale Shaw and some little pots of our Banana & Date Chutney.

The Porridge Oat biscuits still seem to cause a stir so much so I have now divulged how to make them so please check out the recipe here

Final flourish was a classic dessert of Strawberry Meringue. I have to say Mrs HC has become something of a demon on the meringue making front and she was tasked with the making of fifty plus meringues. She has managed to perfect the technique of soft chewy centres… I’m drooling writing about them…

The strawberries came from our favourite supplier Mill Farm in Marden. They supply Wimbledon so I’m led to believe. They have a very special flavour and really do epitomise what is essential good about an English Summer! We served the meringues with whipped double cream, a scoop of clotted cream ice cream and strawberries with a drizzle of strawberry coulis topped with chopped pistachio nuts all completed the creation.

Again plates returned clean and we served coffee with our homemade chocolates completing what had been once again a sell out round of dinners.

It definitley was a fun filled weekend and now with this surprisingly warm weather we move forward to our next dinners which we have named “Too hot to handle” – A Summer BBQ…. let’s hope the sun continues to shine and the rain stays away?

Cheers

Hari

Not quite a Bus Pass Celebration…

Not quite a bus pass celebration…

Well we had an extra little Hari night this weekend for a private party… Party host and birthday girl “Veronica” wanted to celebrate a nearly significant birthday with her close friends in a unique and different way so we duly obliged by opening
our doors for an exclusive dinner…

It had been a hectic week with several trips to London for the day job leaving little time to focus totally on the dinner. Still when
Saturday came it meant a very early start to get the prep work done…

The menu chosen was to showcase some good seasonal produce and we kicked the meal off with some local Asparagus served in a risotto.

Asparagus Risotto…

Next came the main course and having done some awesome new seasons lamb at our right Royal Feast we thought we would serve it again. The lamb was roasted with a wild garlic crumb crust and then served with gratin dauphinoise and some stir fried seasonal greens. A few of the guests who were non-meat eaters were served a wild mushroom quiche with a spicy tomato chilli sauce as the alternative… all got polished off and plates came back pretty well licked clean!

Then the Cheeses served were Winterdale Shaw our a local cheddar and then our Hari’s buttons and a soft French cheese… all with our homemade porridge oat biscuits and homemade Banana & Date chutney

Finally we completed the dinner with a flourless Orange and Hazelnut Torte with a marmalade coulis and a dollop of mascapone.

There was a good buzz to the room as the guests sat round one big table and gladly played musical chairs to mix with each other and Veronica played the perfect host to her guests…

It was a good evening and as guests departed they all seemed well sated…I do hope they enjoyed their special underground dining night…

Cheers

Hari

A right Royal Feast…a report

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Phew… well what a night that was… to celebrate the Royal Wedding we once again returned to Yalding Gardens to host a special dinner.

It has been something of a feel good weekend with what was a second bank holiday for many and the pageantry and pomp of the wedding itself meant we wanted to celebrate the occasion in style.

When we started planning this event we felt an extra course to what we normally serve would be a fitting tribute. It was also planned it should showcase some of our great local produce. In fact we had use of some great produce from the gardens within the menu and then some more unusual products from around the county.

Well we arrived at the Gardens mid afternoon to start our final preparations as our small team all mucked in to get the venue ready.

There had been much work before hand with setting the event up as catering for nearly 50 guests in a kitchen not your own always takes some planning and we also had some running around to source some of the produce we used.

We kicked the evening off with a welcome glass of Bucks Fizz for the guests that we served out on the terrace as it was a lovely tranquil end to a sunny day.

With the welcome drink the nibbles we served some Parmesan Lollipops and then little shot glasses of chilled leek and potato soup with a tumeric kick.

Finally some of our specially sourced rye bread from the Artisan Bakery in Whitstable was used for the final nibble of cream cheese and smoked salmon on Rye.

Guests then sat promptly at 8pm and we kicked the regal dinner off in what we felt was a fitting way. Using some of the fresh young leeks from the gardens we had made pressed leek terrines. Symbolising well the royal connection as father of the groom (HRH the Prince of Wales) the humble leek is the symbol of Wales. With the terrine we served a light and delicate cobnut oil dressing and some toasted cobnuts that were sourced from Hurstwood Farm nr West Peckham. Recipe can be found here

Next came a risotto made with a vegetable stock and then at the last moment flavoured with our locally foraged wild garlic homemade pesto. The addition of mascapone and parmesan ensured a nice creamy risotto and then the addition of a pan fried “King” scallop on top meant we had our royal connection. It seemed like the wiped clean plates that came back meant we had some satisfied guests already.

The main course next we had decided to serve some new season “Spring” lamb. I have in the past tasted some Highgrove estate lamb and the meat we served I have to say compared favourably. Glovers provided us with our chosen cut – the chump and this was roasted and rested to ensure it was served pink and accompanied by some fresh garden spinach and a creamy Gratin Dauphinoise. It was no mean feat to serve all the guests quickly and the team gelled well to ensure this.

Next we served the cheese course, we decided to serve what has become a favourite at our dinners, our local cheddar…Winterdale Shaw.  Cheese-maker Robin Betts has built an impressive little empire with his cheese producing farm and it was on this occasion served with some specially made Banana and Date chutney and our special homemade porridge oat biscuits that seem to be a continued hit.

Finally for the pudding we wanted to showcase a marriage of garden grown rhubarb with some Cinnamon ice cream from Paddock Wood ice cream producer Taywell Ice Cream all served with a Duchy Original shortbread biscuit. Simple but designed to be a light finish to what had been a big meal.

Well as we served coffee with our homemade chocolates (we had one begging for seconds! – no names Joanna!) we began to wind down and clear up. It had been a good night and we had some satisfied guests! I also at this point must pay tribute to my amazing team who did a great job on the night!

In the kitchen Peter had allowed me the freedom to chat and talk to the guests whilst front of house Julia, Ruth, Richard (he had travelled from Oxford to assist me) and Rupert had done sterling work to serve you all
and finally the powerhouse out the back had been Cheryl on wash up… no mean feat as we had no dishwasher working and had to contend with a blocked sink at one stage.

We think it went well and back home over a couple of bottles of red wine and a late night snack of cheese and biscuits we reflected on what we hope you all found to be a successful night and a right royal feast!

Cheers

Hari Covert

Hari Covert @your home… another dinner

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Well we seem to be doing something right as we have just completed yet another @your home dinner for a client.

This was to be a birthday celebration that was to entertain some friends of hosts Catherine and birthday boy Jon in a novel and different way.

I duly arrived laden with food and a selection of plates to ensure six hungry guests would be well fed and to prepare the final bits to the chosen menu.

I was also rather lucky as I had a “Hari’s little helper” as well to get stuck into helping in the making of my canapés, which proved to be very useful.

Their son Edward got stuck in and he managed to produce some lovely Parmesan lollipops and some black olive tapenade toasts for me and seemed to show some early signs of being a passionate cook!  The other canapé we served was a smoked salmon roulade with cream cheese flavoured with horseradish.

The table all laid by the host Catherine and the kitchen all neat and tidy meant all I had to do was get their first course ready and once again Hari’s little helper was on hand to give me a helping hand. Their first course was to be a simple but visually appealing dish that I had done at my recent fish tales dinner.

 The use of a paper bag to steam some fresh fish would be the first course. A bed of vegetable julienne (thin matchstick strips) using carrot, leek and fennel was placed onto a damp rectangle of baking parchment. The fish we used was a scallop, sliver of cod and then a Hastings Skate Knob (cheek). Once seasoned and with a splash of white wine and knob of butter the parcels were sealed and placed upon a baking sheet ready to be placed into a very hot pre heated oven to cook for about eight minutes. The paper dries and puffs up with the trapped steam within thus cooking the fish. Served directly to the table in the paper bag means there is an element of theatre at the table as the bags are cut open and the steam escapes. It is a great visual and olfactory sensation.

The next course was a roasted fillet of beef that we served with a Pommes Darphin – grated raw potato that was moulded into a round, a wild mushroom fricassee that included fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms along with some dried cepes, and then a rich red wine jus. The beef we used was an awesome Scottish Extra matured (21 days minimum ageing) fillet. It was good to see all the plates came back cleared so it must have gone down well.

Next we served our little cheese boards that included what is now a firm favourite with us the Winterdale Shaw made by Robin & Carla Betts. An un-pasteurised milk cheddar style cheese from the top of Wrotham Hill. With this we also served a Stichleton that was outstanding and seemed to go down very well.

Finally we served what we believe was “Birthday Boy” Jon’s favourite pudding some Hazelnut meringues which we sandwiched with a mascarpone cream flavoured with orange and marmalade and then we served a chocolate and hazelnut sauce over the top of them and some orange segments and candid zest.

It like the rest of the meal was pretty well polished off and some contented diners seemed well relaxed as I loaded up the car and headed home.

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