Flaming June…cooking with fire

So we must be a bit mad in the height of summer moving our Pop Up concept to Rochester and the showroom of The Stove Hub where we will be converting their showroom space into a Pop Up space for two nights!

On June 16th & 17th we will be using their Charnwood wood fired stoves to demonstrate their cooking potential as well as cooking alfresco in the front of the showroom over our gas fired pans as they have no kitchen for us to cook with! We do so love a challenge.

We will have to rent in tables, chairs and crockery to set this dining space up so it will be a major undertaking but we think something a little different…

To kick the evening off we will welcome all with a complimentary drink and some simple seasonal nibbles – some of which will be cooked on the wood fired stove top!

The first course will be a simple salad that will be topped with a piece of marinated fish (that we will cook on top of the wood stove)
Next we will then serve up a dish cooked alfresco in our large paella pan… Moroccan Spiced Chicken will be married to some green olives and home preserved lemons and served with some minted cous cous and bowls of dressed salad leaves… All will be prepared before your very eyes to ensure it is all fresh tasting and in true pop up style with an element of theatre!

Next we will then serve our little individual cheeseboards with a selection of cheeses and our now infamous porridge oat biscuits.

To complete the meal we will then serve up a classic summer dessert of Eton Mess… homemade meringues with Kent strawberries and cream… a perfect summer pudding.

With the coffee we will then griddle some shortbread biscuits on top of the stoves and garnish with a dollop of homemade lemon curd and a fresh raspberry… a great way to finish what we think will be a truly unique event in a very “quirky venue”

Guests are invited to bring their own drinks to consume with their meal and we will provide glasses, ice buckets and water on the tables.

You can reserve your dining places via our ticketing site here

Dates: 16th & 17th June 2017

Where: The Stove Hub, 86 King Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1YD

Time: 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm Prompt

Suggested Donation:  Early Bird Tickets before May 30th £30 person after this date -£40 per person (service not included)

Menu

Griddled Marinated Fish with Dressed Salad Leaves

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Moroccan Chicken, Green Olives, Preserved Lemons

Minted Cous Cous

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Hari’s Cheese Selection with Porridge Biscuits

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Eton Mess with local Kent Strawberries

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Coffee or Tea, Griddled Shortbread with Lemon Curd

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availabilty

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May Madness… Pot Luck again

Following on from the success of our dinner events back in January with what we called “Pot Luck” we are going to repeat the format at our May 13th dinner that will take place at the Crowborough Community Centre in their Gallery Café.

It will be a seasonal menu that will kick off with a welcome glass and some simple nibbles and then we will serve up a three course menu that will also involve an element of theatre!!! You will only find out the menu on the night! We will however aim to cater for any dietary needs like Vegetarian/Gluten Free wherever we can and as long as requested when making the booking.

We are requesting a £10 per person reservation fee when you book and then on the night a minimum donation of £10 per person – however if you feel it was worth more then please feel free to leave more in the table envelopes (cash preferred)

As with all our events you are invited to bring your own wines/drinks to have with the meal and we will provide glasses, ice buckets and water on the tables.

We hope you will come and join us for this “Covert” dining experience… just look at some of the comments left in our guestbook from our last visit to this venue…

To book your places just head over to our ticketing site here

We look forward to welcoming you all to our Pot Luck again event that will be a little bit of May Madness…

You look wastED…

wastED – Selfridges London

Back in early 2017 I had a FB message from a friend who just happens to be the Executive Chef for Selfridges.

He wanted to make me aware of the Pop Up Restaurant that was coming to the top floor of the Oxford Street store…

Dan Barber is a superstar chef and the brains behind the concept known as wastED. It took some 18 months of collaborative planning to bring this rather simple and very thought provoking concept to London. The attention to detail was mind boggling and the efforts they have gone to highlight how much good food we waste that can be recycled or up-cycled.

The simple decor with tables made from re-cycled artichokes, lampshades made from spent mushrooms compost and even down to the little boards used to present the diners bills made from re-cycled wool… cutlery in old earthenware pots was re-cycled from “Taste of London” events – it was totally fascinating.

The menu is what it is all about as the brigade of some 35+ chefs since late February have been serving up a menu lunch, tea and dinner to packed in crowds of appreciative diners.

The dishes on offer use produce either rejected for perhaps being slightly past their best, bruised or fundamentally just wasted… The Kale Tree is a classic example as the more succulent lower leaves are sold and the top leaves are thrown away with the stalk- not here they are roasted off in the Wood Fired grill and served with a pair of scissors along with a broth.

On my recent visit we kicked the meal off with a canape of Crispy Salmon Fins with a piece of skin that was then topped by a generous spoonful of “past its best” caviar from Caviar House (Located in the Selfridges Food Hall) that was about to be thrown – still edible and safe to eat but served here on a crispy fried carcass of salmon that certainly got our tasting menu off to a memorable start!

We consumed some 14 different dishes as part of this set tasting menu and the table of chefs and consummate foodies were all unanimous in agreement that this was an amazing experience and truly mind blowing that each dish we consumed was made from discarded produce or just not utilised.

Highlights for me were the “Fish & Chips” – Fish Bones, Fish Skin, Egg Wrack Seaweed, Pockmarked Potato Cream that used smoked salmon bones and skins infused in the milk to give another flavour dimension -all served on crumpled newspaper, it comprised of slivers of fresh Pollock, sardine heads and crispy skin and some little nuggets of potatoes. Stunning.

Then the Cod Head Kedgeree served with little dishes of curried broken rice, spelt bran & trial rye. The Cod Heads were brine cured and then roasted in the “Josper” grills. It was masterful combinations and amazing how much tender and tasty meat could be consumed from the head. It was a remarkably rich dish and we were pretty well stuffed by this stage but the dishes just kept coming.

It was a really great lunch and the whole experience was something to make you think about a) where our food comes from  and b) how much we waste… now there is food for thought for a future themed Hari event… it was certainly inspiring and I think the photos will give you a flavour.

It all finishes on the 2nd of April and I believe is totally sold out… so hard cheese!

 

Gastro Boast…

About two years ago I was involved with a very enjoyable charity fundraising dinner over in Essex with a group of other chefs… It was a hugely successful evening and we managed to raise some significant monies for two smaller charities close to the lead organisers heart.

One of the chefs involved (there were five) was a hunk of man in name and stature by the name of Jack Boast. He was at that time working for the Galvin brothers at one of their central London places.

Jack has now moved out of London to the depths of the Essex countryside. He is now based in Chelmsford and he is now heading up one of the Galvins latest ventures a Gastro Pub called The Green Man in the village of Howe Street Nr Chelmsford.

This former derelict pub believed to date back to the 1300’s in parts has undergone a major refurbishment and extension that is thought to have cost circa £1 million.  What has resulted is a bright and airy building that can serve in excess of 200 diners on a busy day before they even start to open the extensive gardens in the summer months.

Jack has put together a menu of some tried and tested classics such as Fish and Chips or Sausage and Mash. But equally there is much more on offer from this talented guy. Locally reared pork, wood fired oven dishes to grills. There is much on offer to tempt…

We visited on what we thought was a busy Saturday lunchtime… Jack assured us it was relatively quiet this day but can get very hectic. The place was buzzing when we arrived and as we sat down at our table our friendly waitress and young staff were working full pace to serve all.

We were on our way to Colchester as we had tickets for the theatre that evening so this establishment fitted the bill perfectly as a stop off on the way up…

We tucked in to some really good grub… Mrs HC was in raptures with her bowl of Wild Mushroom Soup that was unctuous and full of flavour whilst I myself went with the roasted heritage beetroot that were served with mixed salad leaves and a creamy & generous garnish of crumbled local Goats Cheese. Tried and tested combination that got us both salivating for more!

Mrs HC on the set menu had chosen the smoked haddock fish cake topped with poached egg and some creamy leeks… perfectly balanced and well executed.

I myself went for Grilled Calves Liver and Bacon… this was a generous slab of liver that was perfectly grilled still pink and tender – some crispy rashers of streaky bacon and crispy fried fresh sage leaves all nestling on a compote of onions… just perfect with a little
bucket of triple cooked crispy coated fries with floury centres!!!

Dessert from Mrs HC’s set menu was shared with two spoons… a classic arctic roll of vanilla ice cream encased with a light sponge and gratinated Italian meringue and some segments of blood orange with candied peel.  A perfect finish…

We sat there thinking why had we not got something like this more local to us… Mr Boast stuck his head out and then showed me round quickly his domain… it was amazing to think they had just had a relatively quiet lunch service (it seemed busy to me) but were expecting to do in excess of 200 customers that night  – there was a real calm and focused intent from the kitchen and elsewhere around the place…

Something they can “Boast” about is they have got things pretty well right since opening and already have got a loyal following … we certainly are looking forward to going back… just wish they were this side of the Dartford crossing!!!

Galvin Green Man – Howe Street

 

Only lukewarm…

I am sat in a London branch of Pret … why is every time these places make a coffee the milk is never warmed properly?? Is it me or does this annoy others – it seems like the speed thing outweighs getting it right…


I have always loved these places but there never seems a time when having sat down I am back asking for a hot coffee. 

Rant over…

Officially Quirky… our April Events…

qkWell we thought we would celebrate the recognition of being deemed “Officially Quirky” by hosting a quirky dinner featuring some unusual ingredients and flavour combinations.

Having met with the owner of “Quirky Kent” recently we felt it was only proper and fitting to offer the chance for all those lovers of things quirky the chance to sample a Hari Covert event of the same name!

So for two nights (Friday April 21st & Saturday April 22nd) we will serve up a four course supper at our secret venue for the all inclusive price of £30 per person.

Wild Garlic FlowersSo what is on the menu… well following from a welcome drink (we are dreaming up something Quirky) and some quirky seasonal nibbles on arrival we will kick the dinner off with a panna cotta… now I know you all think why start with dessert well we are turning it on its head and starting with a savoury one infused with the flavour of wild garlic and we will garnish with toasted Kent Cobnuts and some crispy Ikan Bilis the Asian dried salted anchovies I have imported especially from Singapore. This will be a interesting combination of flavours and textures.

For the main course we will then serve shredded pork cheeks that

Pork Cheek with "Mole" Sauce
Pork Cheek with “Mole” Sauce

will have been slow braised in a rich Mexican inspired Mole Sauce with just a hint of chocolate. Some freshly cooked Spätzli (pasta) and red cabbage will garnish what will be a flavour packed dish.

We will then serve what many consider to be a quirky way with the cheese course  (it is in fact the French way so very quirky by English standards) – just the one,but one of our

Winterdale Shaw - Picture @TWFoodie
Winterdale Shaw – Picture @TWFoodie

favourites… Winterdale Shaw Cheese from the top of Wrotham Hill, an unpasteurised carbon neutral cheddar. The milk comes from 200 yds down the road from the Friesan dairy herd and a 1000 gallons needs little heating using their solar panelled heat exchange pumps! Some 10 months later the cheeses matured in their flint lined cellars are ready for eating! Homemade Porridge Oat Biscuits and our homemade Banana Jam will be served with it.

Finally to complete the quirky nature of our dinner we felt it should be chocolate beer and sauerkraut… in a cake form… yes you heard right we combine chocolate, beer and pickled cabbage as a cake – we promise you it really does work!

Coffee & Tea (thinking of getting a Quirky Blend for the night) will complete the evening.

To reserve your places just head on over to our online box office 

Dates: 21st & 22nd April 2017

Time: 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm Prompt

Suggested Donation: £30 per person (service not included)

Menu 

Wild Garlic Panna Cotta, Toasted Cob Nuts, Ikan Bilis

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Braised Pork Cheeks with a Chocolate Mole Sauce,

Spätzli & Red Cabbage

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Winterdale Shaw Cheddar, Porridge Oat Biscuits, Banana Jam

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Sauerkraut, Beer & Chocolate Cake

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Coffee, Tea & Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases and Ingredients Availability. 

Is Brexit to blame?

Oooo getting all political here but there was recently a great deal of press surrounding “Jamies Italian” closing a number of its restaurants brexit-1that basically were under performing and the reason given was the “Brexit Effect”

One said establishment is local to me in central Tunbridge Wells. Now I have to say I have not eaten at this said establishment but looking at the local reviews and Tripadvisor feedback there seems to have been some local animosity to this place and generally negative feedback and when it was announced many said “no sad loss”

A touch harsh but what intrigued me was the reasons given by Jamie Oliver himself was “the Brexit vote” There has been much press recently about how the uncertainty of labour movement will effect the hospitality industry and an already struggling industry with regards to staffing will therefore suffer even more.

I know of one hotel close by to me that is fundamentally staffed totally in the kitchen by a plethora of foreign labour (EU and beyond) another local pub to me has possibly 50% of its brigade as ex prison offenders (a very noble gesture by the employer but perhaps out of more necessity as recruitment is so hard)

The biggest issue the hospitality industry faces today  operationally is staffing… I was recently at a meeting at one of the UK’s leading Hospitality Schools and was staggered to learn that their intake of new students in particular for post graduate programmes was dominated by international students and on their undergraduate programmes a pretty high proportion come from within the European Union… another likely pressure post Brexit on our labour pool.

The hospitality industry fails to attract youngsters committed to a career in it. It’s often seen as unsociable and poorly paid. In fact  I have been involved in the past with several school career fairs and been so frustrated by the lack of understanding of both schools and parents as to what the hospitality industry actually involves.

As the UK’s 4th largest hospindustry it is about time people wake up to what it can offer in employment not just in the UK but globally and more importantly the effect that our lurching towards an even more insular and inward looking approach will impact their future.

Jamie’s comments for me are not without foundation, someone like him with such a global profile to be concerned by the “Brexit Effect” needs to be thought about more deeply.

hosp2Why is it when I eat out the staff that serve me or cook for me are more often than not from overseas and display far more passion for the job they do than their British counterparts?

I fear the future post Brexit does look a shade bleak, I am however optimistic that passion will surface and ever the optimist the future will be brighter…  so what do you think?

 

Farmers Markets… are they worth the money?

photo (177)Now I am always keen to feature top notch local produce at my dinners. I love a good market and relish wandering around trying to find some new inspiration or quirky new product that I have not come across before.

I do however ask the question have the “Farmers Market” had their day?

My biggest gripe is that often a stall holder is not first and foremost a particularly good sales person or customer focused. I have seen too many hide behind their stall looking at their phone seeming totally disinterested and non-engaging with their customers…

Harsh you may think but something I feel is ripe for a discussion /poll.

I often feel there are some stalls that seem to think that their chosen product is worthy of grossly inflated prices and substandard production. I have seen many a cupcake or even a loaf of bread look like an abomination of baking prowess at an eye watering price that even a supermarket would be hard pushed to justify.

Fish that pongs or not looking its best and a dirt encrusted vegetable that makes out it is better because of it…

Thenphoto (17) there is the snobby customer who also makes out they are more than righteous for supporting the market and are a dedicated foodie because they do so!

Well I for one will happily support a Farmers Market but I have to say the stall holder has to up their game to get me to part with my hard earned cash and have a product worthy of it.

Good imaginative food is worth it but alas a lot of it is not… what says you?

All loved up…

hearts1Well that date is fast approaching when couples habitually inhabit those tables of two’s in a restaurant and look lovingly into each other’s eyes across the dinner table!

You can tell I am a fan of this night of romantic love big time – Not!

It is generally hype to fill perhaps a quiet week night (a Tuesday this year) and dreaded by restaurants when it falls on a weekend night as they fill up in under capacity!

I have such strong memories of a “Valentine Night” in a restaurant I was working in when a couple came in for dinner who had obviously had a row and I think the guy was there under duress.

They ordered two” well done” fillet steaks and requested they be served with peas (we were upmarket and served a medley of vegetables)

confusciusI sent the waitress back with the message “Old Chinese Philosopher Confucius says Man who eats “Meat and Peas” on same plate is very unhygienic”

The waitress thought for moment and then giggled and said I can’t tell them that… I said please try!

Some restaurants get all creative with overpriced pun induced menus using not in season produce – e.g. Asparagus, Strawberries etc or pink coloured foods! I even tried one year doing a Valentine themed dinner here for my Supperclub and found it a tortuous night so vowed never again!

cooking2I am much more in favour of seeing you all cooking something special at home and perhaps pushing the boat out with a meal lovingly prepared for a loved one. It makes much more a statement than splashing out on a substandard meal in a restaurant.

So this would be my suggestion on a good seasonal menu

Ceviche of Smoked Haddock with a Celeriac Remoulade

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Chicken Bhuna (cooked in a Slow Cooker)

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Tangy Lemon Posset

with homemade Shortbread Biscuits

cookingYou will note I have provided links for all the recipes so why not give it a go and impress a loved one and cook them up this special treat… it will not break the bank and I am sure it will impress the other half!

Failing that why not come along later in the month for our February dinner event that we are calling “Game On as we will be featuring assorted Game dishes from Venison to Guinea Fowl.  You can book the dinners here on our dedicated ticketing site!

Alternatively if you what to learn how to prepare these or any other dishes there is always the Covert Cook School where we can help you build your confidence and assist those untapped wooing skills…

Far better than going out with all those other sad ones!!!

Kent's first Underground/Secret Restaurant…