Well it was a chilly Saturday afternoon as along with my covert colleague we wound our way around some Kent countryside lanes to fulfil our calling as “guest” chefs to none other than double Gold medal winner Dame Kelly Holmes.
About a year ago Dame Kelly had made her bid for an item we had put up for auction at the Hospice in the Weald Torchlight Dinner held at Hever Castle. We were to cook and serve a four course dinner to Kelly and her guests in the comfort of her own home. Titled Eat Like a King… well almost
So my partner in crime who we will call “Greg” works in a high profile Private household and had arrived earlier that day to Hari HQ to help with preparations. We were to cook a special menu that had been agreed via Kelly’s office and we had to get prepared before we set up in Kelly’s kitchen.
So having beavered away all morning, filleting fish, chopping vegetables and putting together what is more commonly termed mise-en-place we were packed and ready to roll by just after 4pm.
We arrived just before our agreed time of 5pm to be warmly greeted at Kelly’s home. Alpaca’s in an adjacent field got Greg all excited as he has extensively travelled in that part of the world these animals come from. We unloaded the car and set ourselves up in what was a very impressive kitchen. This looked like it was going to be fun!
We set to getting things ready, namely making Beer Bread and then baking off the cheese palmiers pastry nibbles – it is always a challenge working in a strange kitchen trying to get to grip with the ovens and such like… we were spoilt for choice with an Aga, two ovens and steamer so just needed to work out how to turn them on!
Kelly returned home and after introductions we settled into a relaxed pace. She set off to light her wood burning stove in the hallway. About 20 minutes later as a light fug descended the hallway alarms were blaring… we thought we had burnt something but as Kelly later tweeted “Looking forward to a posh meal being cooked @ my place by @MrHariCovert Embarrassing that I set the fire alarm off with my fire though.”
So what did we serve Kelly and her 5 guests. Well as they congregated in the lounge we served up a platter of mini toasts topped with chopped mushrooms mixed with wild mushrooms and bowls of crispy cheese palmiers
As they all sat down the first course we served was a little extra one called “Tasette Lady Mariniere”. A delicate soup of prawns infused with Pernod and saffron flavour, then thickened with what is termed an egg yolk liaison (egg yolk and cream) at the last minute.
So as the ladies devoured this with relish along with the freshly made Moodley’s Beer Bread Greg and I plated up their starter… we had decided on a version of a Ceviche as Greg had recently been to Peru but mindful of the publics aversion to raw fish we had decided to make it with smoked haddock. Little cubes of the fish were marinated for about two hours in fresh lime juice along with finely chopped shallots, diced chilli and we also added some freshly chopped dill. We arranged the fish on the plates and alongside this we served a bed of fresh pea shoots and a salad of grated celeriac and apple remoulade. It all looked delicate and tasty with zingy freshness. It was equally devoured with plates wiped clean!
Main course was fish again… I had been informed the Kelly was not a big red meat eater so we had decided to stick with fish. This time we served up a selection of fish, a fillet of fresh Sea Bass, a chunk of Salmon, a King Scallop and some freshly poached mussels were arranged on a bed of finely sliced fennel, samphire (seaweed) and carrot and with a dash of white wine we encased the fish in a paper bag and then when placed in a hot oven the steam within cooked the fish. Much frivolity was had as we served the bags to guests as we joked the bags were not edible just the contents. A butter sauce boiled new potatoes and a salad of green beans with cobnuts and cob nut oil were served alongside.
The noise levels deadened as they all tucked in and then rose as they sat back and gossiped as they do! Greg and I were busy ensuring the kitchen was kept tidy and we prepared the next course. We felt an indulgent Lemon Posset would go down well, this old English dessert would be a winner and we served ours in a glass with a mound of fresh raspberries and some freshly baked warm butter shortbread biscuits.
Kelly had like any good host got her best stuff out and well the cutlery was something of beauty and very apt “bling”. Polished Sheffield Steel with monogrammed hilts (double medals incorporated into 2004 and KH) that had apparently been given to her by the Mayor of Sheffield. We stood the teaspoons into the glasses and it set the dish off perfectly!
We had expected the ladies to perhaps have struggled at this stage but again they devoured with relish and clean glasses returned to the kitchen.
Finally we served some local cheeses, I had made a visit up to Winterdale Shaw on the top of Wrotham Hill for their Cheddar cheese. I also was keen to use some Stichleton as well but a rogue batch of this unpasteurised Stilton style cheese meant they only had the Colston Basset Stilton so we took that. Along with a hunk of Smoked Winterdale Shaw we had our cheese boards and with some home-made Banana Jam and the Porridge Oat biscuits completed the picture.
By this time the ladies were well and truly struggling and the extra shortbread biscuits we served up with the coffee were packaged up to take home along with the selection of Damian Allsop water ganache chocolates. I had spent the day with Damian at a food festival up in the Cotswolds and heard more of his story (something for a later post) and a box of his chefs collection was stored away in Kelly’s larder for later consumption!
We loaded up the car and then sneaked a few last minute photos with Kelly and her guests. It had been a great night and total pleasure to cook for some wonderfully appreciative guests. Meeting and cooking for Kelly had been a real pleasure and as Kelly then quizzed Greg as to what was next, she fished for more info but we deftly fielded the questions as his “Non Disclosure Agreements” could not be breached but we felt they had got the gist they had eaten like Kings… well almost.