Our daily bread…

Well it has been a summer of mixed emotions for us… we have loved watching the Olympics and the herculean efforts of all our athletes who have given it their all. The nail biting gold medal fight with Andy Murray to the dying second loss of a gold medal for the Taekwondo guy!

We have also after 16 years just sold our French home in the village of Rivesaltes. It was with some sadness we spent our last summer holiday in the “maison” but we will return to the area as we love it so much.

One thing I managed to do this time was something of a long term desire and ambition to work in a genuine French bakery and make the bread!

Well I have to thank Patrick Aiguaviva for the patience and opportunity to do this as he and his family took over the old bakery called La Muscaline on the Place General de Gaulle in the village and following a redecoration re opened it as “Pain de Place” The already own and run the bar opposite so they are slowly dominating the commercial enterprises of square.

Patrick was a little surprised I wanted to get up at an ungodly hour whilst on holiday to make bread with him but he patiently agreed and I duly turned up on a warm sticky Saturday morning at 5:30m

Patrick has a culinary background of working on cruise ships so is use to production on a large scale but running a bakery is a challenge. He makes the dough up the day before using his assorted flours but what intrigued me was the recipe he uses also used some sour dough from the previous day’s dough as a starter in the dough and allows it to prove very slowly. This creates to a good tasting bread.

He does very little hand formation of the dough as he is lucky to have an ancient large rolling machine that rolled the dough into the assorted sized breads. From the traditional baguette, to a thinner smaller ficelle or the “ancienne style” baguette with their pointed ends.

Each batch was placed onto ready prepared cloth covered trays that were then wheeled into the proving cupboard where the dough was held at about 12 degrees centigrade overnight before being got out ready to be placed into the large bakery oven the next morning.

Even loading up the oven was semi-automated with a belt tray that pushed the baguettes into the oven direct onto the oven floor.
Patrick was so well organised with certain functions all geared to make his life easier so that he could bake the required number of baguettes to service the shop and a few of his local contracts. Small bread rolls for the school canteen to some Pizza dough ready for a regular client.

Within no more than 3 hours we had baked the lot as one lot went into the oven and about 12 minutes later came out. It was fascinating to learn the slashes on the top of the baguette or the Boules (round loaf) and the Epis baguettes are all traditional processes and very much the signature of each bakery and their bakers.
I had a go and found it a lot of harder than he made it look and was painfully slower. Practice will make it easier and quicker.

Viennoiserie or “morning goods” of Croissants. Pain au Chocolat and Pains aux Raisin are all bought in frozen and baked off in another oven upstairs (it was cavernous behind the scenes) This is not uncommon in French bakeries these days as it is a time consuming and highly skilled job and not really cost effective for a single man operation!

Patrick also makes large Palmiers Biscuits which he explained were traditionally made from the left over puff pastry dough that were then dredged in sugar and rolled to make the ear shaped crisp sugary pastry much loved with a grand café crème

I shot off with some warm baguettes for breakfast and then popped back a couple of hours later to roll out the next days required bread from a large batch of dough he had already made up.

It was fascinating to see and struck me the amount of effort that goes into that ninety cent baguette is certainly something to cherish and respect. The passion bakers have along with their skills is worthy of our support and our custom!

The locals of Rivesaltes are spoilt for choice and seem to appreciate the differences of each bakery. We had five bakeries all within a five minute walk and now having seen behind the scenes of our nearest I am in awe of what they all achieve but will remain loyal to Patrick’s prowess. It was a very fitting end to our holiday and a memory I shall cherish… a bit like our daily bread!

For the love of Gin… a right royal appointment…

For our October dinners we are going to be popping up once again in the village of Marden.… we can now reveal once again we will be hosting two dinners in the Anno Distillers distillery with those lovely chaps Andy & Norman

Anno Distillers Artisan Drinks
Anno Distillers Artisan Drinks

This time however I will be joined by a fellow chef and new supper club host who is in the process of setting up his own pop ups.

Chef Visen Anenden will be joining us to cook a few courses alongside yours truly. Visen is an accomplished chef who trained with the Roux family at Le Gavroche and then worked on events for celebrity chef Anthony Worral Thompson.

He has most recently however been the personal chef to HRH The Prince of Wales household where for nearly ten years he worked in the assorted homes of the Prince and travelled with him on assorted foreign trips.

We have tried to ensure the dishes we are preparing highlight not only the handiwork of those clever guys at Anno but local produce and we hope a few stories peppered into the evening of both Visen’s and Hari’s experiences.

There will be just twenty two spaces available each night for this rather unique and exclusive event and we will have either Andy or Norman on hand each night to provide an insight into the workings of their still and the fruits of their labours.

So onto the menu… we will kick the evening off with assorted welcome nibbles served with a welcome Gin & Tonic whilst you will get an introduction and tour from the makers into how they make their Gins and Vodka.

First course prepared by Hari will be an unctuous Duck Rillettes served with a jelly made from Anno’s Sloe Gin.

Visen will then serve cured salmon that will have been cured using Anno’s Elderflower Vodka and a classic beetroot and horseradish garnish.

Chef Visen will then be in charge of the main course where he will be serving up a Pork inspired dish of the belly and a cake of black pudding.  I am intrigued by his mushroom, lettuce – fenugreek sauce – his love of spices must be part of his Mauritian heritage.

Hari will be picking the cheeses and sticking local with Winterdale

Winterdale Shaw
Winterdale Shaw

Shaw unpasteurised Cheddar and then a Kentish Blue from Staplehurst.

To complete the meal Visen will be in charge again and his dessert will be an Anno Gin soaked sponge, raspberry, and burnt-butter-vanilla cream, all served with a glass of sweet wine.

Dates: Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd October 2016

Venue: Anno Distillers Marden

Time: 7:30pm Welcome 8:00pm Dinner Served

Suggested Donation: £50 per person (service not included)

Menu

Nibbles with an Anno Gin & Tonic

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Duck Rillettes with Green Peppercorns & Sloe Gin Jelly,

Sour Dough Toast

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Salmon cured in elderflower vodka, chickpea blini, pickled beetroot and horseradish

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Pork belly, pressed potato-black pudding “cake”, mushroom and lettuce-fenugreek sauce

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Winterdale Shaw Cheddar & Kentish Blue with Banana Jam & Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Gin soaked sponge, raspberry, and burnt-butter-vanilla cream + small shot glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes

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Coffee & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

To book your places please complete the following form and we will contact you within 24/48 hours to confirm your booking with a credit card number

Summers passing… our September events…

We thought with summer now becoming a distant memory our menu would reflect the change of seasons.  We felt it should perhaps include some of the bountiful produce still available and represent the seasons.

mackFollowing a welcome drink and assorted nibbles we felt to kick the meal off we would start with a dish inspired with Mackerel and gooseberries – a combination made in heaven as the fruit cuts wonderfully with the oiliness of the gooseberriesfish.

The main course will be a slow cooked shoulder of lamb with a Moroccan influenced spicing served with Cous  Cous and a bean salad dressed in a yogurt and mint dressing

This will be followed by our selection of cheeses served with the porridge oat biscuits that take some three days to make… then finally for dessert a fresh plum and almond cake served with mascarpone.plums

This will then be served with a glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes specially imported from our french home.

Dates: Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th September 2016

Time: 7:30pm welcome drink 8:00pm Dinner served

Suggested Donation:  £35.00 per  person (service not included)

Menu

Mackerel & Gooseberries – our interpretation

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Spicy Moroccan Lamb Shoulder served with a herb Cous Cous

Green Bean Salad with a yogurt & mint dressing

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Hari’s selection of cheeses with Porridge Oat Biscuits

& Homemade Banana Jam

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Plum & Almond Cake served with mascarpone cream

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Coffee or Tea served with petit fours

MENU SUBJECT TO MARKET PURCHASES

AND INGREDIENT AVAILABILITY 

To book your places please complete the following form and we will contact you within 24/48 hours to confirm your booking with a credit card number

Summer is here…Phew

summer holsWell it has been a very hectic month for us with some charity gigs and then a plethora of private functions… We are just about to complete our last one before heading off to France for our annual break. It will be twinned with sadness as we have now sold our French home so it will be the last time we will be staying there!

We have lots already planned for the Autumn season and we will soon be taking bookings for our September & October dates… So do watch this space where we will be publishing full details in the next couple of weeks.

I hope you all have a great summer holiday and come back rested and refreshed! We will!

Cheers

Hari Covert

 

Dinner on a hot lead roof…

roofWe did say never again but well our arm was twisted and it is all in a good cause!

We are hosting another dinner on the roof of Yalding Church… in fact we are inviting 20 couples to come along for a Paella themed supper and on the night there will be a further prize draw and three couple will be invited to partake of their dinner on the roof!yc2

To be able to partake of this event we are requiring you enter our prize draw by heading over to our fundraising page here

For every £1 donation your name will be placed in the virtual hat one time. So a £5 donation will mean it will be there five times… and so on

YCPS_logo_colIt will be a fun night and the whole raison d’etre is to help this charity raise much needed funds to continue its support of the upkeep of the fabric of this building and hub of the village community.

Just remember it could be dinner on a “hot lead roof” with a great view and some fascinating company so just get donating!

Flaming June…

Well with the weather warming up we are thinking about our June events and the menu we are going to produce. We have decided to reprieve some of our favourites and we hope you will like them…

We will serve a selection of seasonal nibbles to kick the evening off along with a suitable summery drink. We will then as the first course serve a South American inspired starter of a “Ceviche” a mix of smoked haddock and raw prawns that are marinated for a few hours in a citric marinade and then served shaped like a tartare with a celeriac remoulade (dressed in a mustard mayonnaise)

Main course will be a roasted fillet of beef served with a mixed wild mushroom sauce a rosti potato cake and our veritable “haricots verts” (green beans).

For our cheese course we will make it a selection of suitable cheeses served with our infamous Porridge Oat Biscuits and home-made Banana Jam.

To complete the meal we will serve Damian Allsops “Water” Chocolate Mousse. A really light and flavoursome chocolate mousse that allows the true flavour of the chocolate to shine through as it contains no cream!. Some local summer berries and also serve up a cold pressed iced coffee to help wash it all down.

It will hopefully be a warm and sultry night and we look forward to welcoming old and new guests to our secret venue (well to the newbies at least)

To Book please complete the booking form below and we will contact you normally with 24/48 hours to confirm your booking with a credit card number.

Dates: Friday 10th & Saturday 11th June 2016

Time:  19:30 Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 20:00 Dinner Served

Suggested Donation: £40.00 Per Person (Service Not Included) 

Menu 

Ceviche of Smoked Haddock & Prawn with Celeriac Remoulade, served with corn bread 

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Roasted Fillet of Beef served with a Wild Mushroom & Cognac Sauce, Crispy Rosti Potato Cake, Haricots Verts

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Hari’s Selection of Cheeses served with Porridge Oat Biscuits & Banana Jam

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Damian Allsops “Water” Chocolate Mousse, Summer Berries & Cold Pressed Coffee Milkshake

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Coffee & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availabilty

Tapas, Meze, Light Bites… little morsels of loveliness

I have always enjoyed the idea of small plates of food that you can share so that you can sample what a kitchen has to offer and also a great way to share a meal. I have recently sampled a few meals like this in the last month or so. Firstly on a recent hook up with world renowned chocolatier Damian Allsop in Girona Spain we sampled some beautiful tapas in a back street establishment called Restaurant Curcuma. It was right in the city centre and had a modern simple decor but some great tasty and innovative tapas.

IMG_8883
Cod with Sobrassada Sausage
IMG_8882
Turmeric scented Croquetas

Highlight for me were the turmeric (the name of the restaurant) scented croquetas, crispy cased and soft unctuous centres and some steamed cod topped with roasted onions, honey and Sobrassada sausage. Innovative flavours simply presented and reasonably priced.

Then more recently we found ourselves back in the town of Whitstable at one our favourites – the infamous and highly popular Jo Jo’s Restaurant where they specialise in Mediterranean meze, – large sharing boards of assorted well sourced cold meats, cheese and small bowls of Hummus, Tzatziki etc as well as small plates of other ever changing specials and regular favourites. The cod or haddock goujons in a beer batter highlight the fresh fish that are ever so popular.

Crispy Pigs Ears...
Crispy Pigs Ears…

I also quietly ordered one of the blackboard specials of  the day… Crispy Pigs Ears with a Remoulade sauce. This was a very generous portion of crispy crumb coated slivers of porcine goodness that were to put it mildly rapidly devoured by even the youngest of our party ( a 4 year old) with gusto.

All that sharing ensured a very respectable and celebratory lunch was had by all.

Then most recently I was invited to a restaurant in the centre of Canterbury that was not on my radar or I had any idea of its existence. I was joining a friend who had been invited for a lunch at Deesons Restaurant where head chef Ross Barden was keen for us to try their newly launched “British Tapas” dishes in this quintessentially modern British restaurant.

The tapas idea here was both innovative and at time quite unexpected and as a whole worked well with some good skilful thought out dishes but then some not so well executed ones.

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We actually sampled the entire menu and were generally impressed but did feel the kitchen was trying just a shade too hard. Dishes that worked really well and were outstanding were a twice baked “Old Winchester” cheese soufflé with a carrot pureé that needed a little more seasoning and sweetness to cut against the savoury nature of the cheese. The Confit hen’s yolk with buttered leeks and crispy chicken skin soldiers was inspired. The Crispy Haggis with a poached egg and parsnip crisps was also flavoursome but technically the haggis was a tad dry from over frying/baking so needed the soft egg to add liquid!

Cider Braised Beef Shin with apple juice and ginger with mash and cabbage was a wonderful unctuous dish but again lacked in seasoning. The Spring Greens with wholegrain mustard worked beautifully as did the charred broccoli with cheese sauce and flaked almonds whilst  smoked mash potato was less popular than the the plain one – it did need more butter, cream and salt.

In fact the seasoning overall throughout the meal did raise the question did “Chef” smoke as a lot of the dishes seemed under seasoned. This is a common situation in many a kitchen and for me something that was drummed into me in my formative years how important it is to season the food correctly and also taste it.

We also sampled a couple of croquette style dishes that when compared to a “Spanish croquetas” sadly missed the mark. The Smoked Cod Kedgeree was a good idea but the large cake like croquette was just to big and clumsy, a good livid coloured curry mayonnaise was much needed to moisten it.

The Pork and Potato Croquette served with an an apple butter was also oversized and would have been better smaller and perhaps served as a threesome. The apple butter on the tapas version did not pack the same punch that it did when served with the a la carte main course of Pork Tenderloin along with Black Pudding crumb and candied walnuts and a cider jus (to die for)

So overall this was a highly enjoyable delve into how we can equally compete with our continental partners and it can well showcase our own culinary heritage.

Deeson’s is a a little gem and I look forward to a return visit as I think if Chef Ross can sort out the issues we encountered he will be a place to watch in amongst the plethora of those  uninspiring tourist eating establishments of Canterbury.

Deeson’s British Restaurant
25-26 Sun Street
Canterbury
Kent
CT1 2HX

Fiesta de la paella at Scallywag Café – Tunbridge Wells…

Looks as good as it tastes!
Looks as good as it tastes!

Well our May dinners will be a bit of a Spanish Fiesta with us cooking an authentic Paella freshly before your very eyes in central Tunbridge Wells.

The plan is over two nights we will be  based at the Scallywag Café where we will taking over the premises on the Friday 20th & Saturday 21st May on each evening.

We will serve up a simple selection of Tapas to kick the evening off and then serve up a classic one pan Paella comprising of Chicken, Chorizo and Prawns (Vegetarian option is also available)

To finish it all there will be a simple Almond Tart Served with Taywell’s Honeycomb Ice Cream.

20150906_150957There will be a selection of drinks available for purchase direct from Scallywag Café and owner John is also planning some live Iberian themed musical entertainment to get you all in your own sombrero stomping mood!

To book the event you can do so via our dedicated page the Billetto ticketing web site here.

No bookings can be made directly with Scallywag Café or via the Hari Covert web site they can only be made via the Billetto ticket site.

We have limited spaces each night so please do book early to ensure you get the places your require.

Dates: Friday 20th & Saturday 21st May

Venue: Scallywag Café, 45 Mount Ephriam , Tunbridge Wells, TN4 8AA

Time: 7:30pm for 8:00pm

Menu

Assorted Tapas –

Gazpacho Shots, Deep Fried Croquetas, Pan Catalan, Tortilla Bites, Manchego & Honey

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Freshly Cooked Paella –

A mixture of Chicken, Chorizo & Prawns cooked with peppers, green beans & Mussels

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Pastas de Almendra with Taywell Honeycomb Ice Cream

(Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability)

Wines & Drinks can be purchased on the night direct from Scallywag Café

Live Entertainment – format to be confirmed.

Booking closes: 18th May 2016 at 5pm

The “Willy Wonka” of chocolate is thriving…

It was great to recently catch up with Damian Allsop the chocolatier that was until early 2013 located in Tunbridge Wells. He moved back to Spain with his Spanish partner Anna and took up residence in the town of Girona.

His chocolate business struggled to continue and a short period of his own restaurant in the centre of the town was also despite great reviews thwarted by circumstances beyond his control.

Damian has had a tough time of it and his story is a fascinating one. Some 15 plus years ago he had a nasty self-induced accident that resulted in him breaking both his feet,  a result of  falling from a second floor balcony.

It seems amazing to think how he has bounced back but much is to be credited to his stalwart partner Anna. Anyway after he folded his chocolate business and the restaurant business he was approached by his old bosses in Girona the “Roca” family. Their 3 star Michelin restaurant empire has become his current “lifeline”.IMG_8891

He is tasked with making all the chocolates for the restaurant and banqueting as well as making some of the centre piece cakes for big banqueting functions. Using all his old pastry skills learnt over the past 25 plus years. Plus his amazing and much respected chocolate making skills.

IMG_8887Well the last few months has seen some interesting developments in his journey that will I am sure bring a new chapter for them. He is now classed as just the chocolatier for the “Roca Empire” introducing a range of seasonally changing chocolates for the business every 3-4 months.

EastermonaHe has just had a busy Easter period producing some moulded chocolate monkeys over 300 of them in just under 2 weeks… it was a last minute task he was given and one he says he will not repeat next year without a bit more forward planning!.

But more exciting is the plans ahead… The Roca Empire is expanding and it would seem pivotal in all of this is Damian’s skills as he is looking to develop a “bean to bar” business for them in an ethical and sustainable way. There will be a chocolate factory in central Girona and some boutique hotel rooms that will also be chocolate themed.

So hopefully by next Easter a weekend trip to the city will have a chocolate overload and be the best way to indulge those chocolate fixes.

Just remember you heard about it here first!

On “yer bike” coffee…

We are showcasing a fledgling company with our next dinner when it comes to our coffee service at the end of the meal.

The brain child of Maidstone Boys Grammar School  6th Former Dan Westby, he has been a big fan of coffee for a number of years. After much internet searching along with a loan from the bank of “Mum & Dad” he set himself  up with a coffee bean roasting machine.

Dan has thought through the whole business he has set up from the very clever name to the whole structure and set up. Velo Coffee is designed to be sustainable by selling their roasted beans at local farmers market in Bearsted each month to then being hand delivered by bike as that is Dan’s second passion.

So after much research and some clever branding Velo Coffee was born and Dan now sources his bean choice with the help of his customers and effectively small batch roasts to order the coffee to ensure the maximum freshness.

His current choice of bean is from Rwanda , and precisely Gashonga a small region close to the Congo and Burundi.

This “Red Bourbon” Variety is hand-picked  by smallholders at 1600 plus meters above sea level in ideal growing conditions that is then fermented and dried at the “Gashonga Station”.  He describes them as having a Chocolate & Brown Sugar flavour with a citrus acidity and a syrupy mouth feel.

Dan will normally buy 30kg of the chosen green beans  that he will then roast to order in batches of 250g at a time – a process he will do at last minute before delivery by bike to ensure they are at their optimal freshness. He will then also grind the beans for the desired method of brew. A finer grind for the filter method and a coarser grind for a Cafetiere or “French press”

The smell is evocative as the beans roast in circa 12 minutes and Dan brewed me a fresh cup on my visit to his set up that illustrated well the citrus notes of the light roasted bean that when drank black and without sugar was a perfect way to appreciate his passion.

He has promised to be on hand each night to talk about his business and the way it operates from his monthly stall at Bearsted farmers market to the subscription service that he offers to local residents where he delivers a freshly roasted pack by bike or for those further afield he will also send by Royal Mail.

For someone so young it is an enterprise to be admired and what is so evident is the passion he shows for the product – the care and attention to detail from the branding to processes involved is to be commended. I trust you will come and support him at our next dinner.

Velo Coffee Co – www.velocoffeeco.co.uk

Facebook – velocoffeeco  

Twitter – @velocoffeeco

Instagram  @velocoffeeco

Kent's first Underground/Secret Restaurant…