Tag Archives: Chocolate

Game On… our February Menu

So it has been six years since our last “Game On” dinner when we dedicated the menu to a “Game” themed one.

We felt it was long overdue as winter months are a perfect time to enjoy this much forgotten and often not appreciated culinary treat. So this months menu will feature heavily three types of game.

We will kick the meal off with a Carpaccio of Venison, this is thinly sliced slivers of raw venison loin that we will marry to slices of pickled beetroot and some walnuts all dressed with a horseradish cream.

Next we will serve up a classic risotto that will have the addition of creamed sweetcorn that will then be topped with slivers of roasted wood pigeon breasts and roasted baby corn.  I am drooling just thinking of this!

The main course will be a breast of Guinea Fowl that will be studded with a force-meat of the legs mixed with Prunes. The breast will then be roasted off and served on top of a potato rosti and garnished with a red wine & prune sauce and some wilted spring onions. Then of course green beans will also feature.

To complete the meal we will then serve up a warm bread and butter pudding laced with chocolate and orange marmalade. We will keep it simple by serving it with some pouring cream – just a few extra calories.

Dates: Friday 24th  & Saturday 25th February 2017

Venue: Hari’s Secret Location

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

Suggested Donation: £40 per person (service not included)

Menu

Welcome drink and seasonal nibbles

🌽 🌽 🌽 

Venison & Beetroot Carpaccio

🍽 🍽 🍽 

Roasted Wood Pigeon & Sweet Corn Risotto

🌽 🌽 🌽 

Breast of Guinea Fowl, Prune & Spring Onion

Haricots Vert

Potato Rosti

🍽 🍽 🍽 

Chocolate & Marmalade Bread & Butter Pudding

🌽 🌽 🌽 

Coffee, Tea & Petit Fours 

Menu Subject to Market Purchases & Ingredient Availability 

To book your places please click here

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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!

Chocolate heaven…

Restaurant Mimo d’en Damian – Girona

Well it was blue skies and a warm autumn afternoon when I set off from my house in France and I basked in the glorious scenery as I whizzed down the motorway towards Spain. Once through the peage at Le Boulou you climb over the mountains before dropping into Spain and the commercial “duty free” shopping conurbation of La Jonqueria – it was all going swimmingly well and I was excited at the prospect of dinner on the opening night at Damian’s new venture.

It was then a wall of traffic in front of me and flashing indicators that bought me to a sudden halt and I then began to panic I might not reach Girona in time for dinner! Well a lorry had shed it’s load and police were busy trying to reopen the motorway… some 45 minutes later I was motoring and my expectation was rising yet again.

I arrived in Girona just as the sun was setting and the birds were all coming home to roost! The cacophony was deafening and as I wandered around the old town I found myself sitting on Independence Square with it’s plethora of restaurants and bars and a real buzz as the locals were beginning to unwind at the end of their working day.

My table was booked for 8:30pm early by Spanish standards for a dinner reservation and I was to be joined by some friends who had motored up from Barcelona. They were running a little late having got stuck in the commuter traffic of Barcelona but as I sat at my table waiting I perused the decor. Simple understated table decorations included a chocolate cube sculpture on each table, a wall mounted chocolate sculpture in the shape of a cocoa pod and then some wooden tree branches also covered in chocolate sculptured facsimiles of cocoa pods all added to the statement “it is all about the chocolate”.

Damian is a renowned chocolatier and holds the mantle of the fourth best in the world and was mentor to Jordi Roca of the local El Celler can Roca.  He has, with his partner Anna, her sister and her husband formed a partnership that has seen the rebirth of Restaurant Mimolet as Mimo d’en Damian. Located near the cathedral in the old part of the city it is a perfect location for Damian to showcase his creations with a small boutique shop and a modern understated simple decor within the restaurant.

So my guests arrived and settled and then the meal commenced… the menu is divided between fundamentally two choices of menu. The Plantation Menu – a degustation menu of either five or eight courses that reflects the varying chocolates that Damian likes to work perfectly illustrates the natures of their provenance. The use of a different chocolate in some form or another at each course is very much a feature.

The other menu choice on offer is named “La Finca”  a menu that provides a simple 3 choice three course menu that with seasonal influences of home inspired dishes often without chocolate except for the dessert!!! Then for groups of four or more Damian has also introduced a menu titled “LA  XOCOLATADA“. This is a selection of a lot of the dishes reflected in the other two menus.  Complemented by a simple main course of roasted chicken ballontine with garnish and to complete the sharing meal effectively a chocolate fondue served with assorted accompaniments to dip and dunk accordingly! The ethos is the re-invention of the sharing of a meal.

So we plumped for the Plantation eight course degustation (one wimped out with the 5 courses) and we decided to go that extra bit with the wines included chosen by the restaurant for an amazing 45 Euros per person. (more about that later)

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First up was what was described as snacks and were presented on a wooden board with a balloon whisk. Little miniature croquettes with capers, little coca biscuits (a local cracker) topped with a smooth velvety pumpkin mousse topped with chopped walnuts and then nestling in the whisk where what were described as Sweet corn Crisps – looking like giant onion rings these crisp little confections just melted in the mouth… all went perfectly with the lovely chilled glass of Cava that appeared in front of us.

Bread then arrived. It was intriguing and Damian explained had taken much experimentation to perfect. Fundamentally an olive oil bread that used cocoa butter these little rolls had a lovely crispy exterior and a very stringy moreish texture within…

The first course up was the described as the Santa Pau Bean Soup, a dry plate duly arrived with an arrangement of diced carrots and beans in the bottom – a sliver of dried bread that Damian describes as using a cocoa ferment in its making process and a spherical scoop of bacon ice cream before a dark chocolate coloured broth was poured into the bowl. Intense depth of flavours and balanced seasoning combinations ensured this was a great start to the meal, the ice cream melted to provide a creamy edge to the soup and the delicate bread softened within the broth – masterful.

Next came the Cep Royal, Onion Foam and a garnish of camomile and cacao soil, a shallow glass bowl had a dark warm set mousse in its base with that distinct earthy boletus flavour of the wild mushroom, a delicate light sweet flavoured onion foam had been squirted onto this and all garnished with a crunchy decoration of cocoa nibs. Textural and flavourful combinations that were truly magnificent and equally memorable. Flavours zinged in the mouth and lingered with every spoonful!

Our next course was described as White Fish, Saffron veloute, fennel & orange on the menu. We were served two fresh shell on prawns that were perfectly cooked. The sauce had a delicate aerated texture and had the addition of cacao butter to provide a richness to the dish. It was a accomplished but for me perhaps the weakest dish of the night and perhaps still a work in progress, nonetheless still very enjoyable.

Next came the main course and one I looked forward to as I am a massive fan of the “Pork Cheek”. It is something of a local favourite in the region and often found on menus both in Spanish Cataluña and French Catalan eateries. Damian interpretation was for me totally inspired. The presentation was simple but effective the pork cheek had been cooked perfectly and then shredded and formed into what effectively looked like a chocolate brownie.The garnish of unctuous smooth potato puree and then a masterful finely shredded acidic yet sweet addition of bright pink red cabbage provided the necessary foil for the richness of the meat… This was truly magnificent and for me the revelation of forming the shredded meat into a brownie shaped form on the plate was inspired and the addition of the classic mole sauce using Michel Cluizels “Los Ancones” 68% chocolate just delivered the whole dish to stellar heights. The Brueberry Negre wine from Monsant was the perfect choice to go with dish as well… I loved it

A short pause to allow us to digest the richness for the main dish was then broken by the arrival of the final stretch of the meal! The fact that Damian is formerly a pastry chef meant we were then in for a treat as he presented the three desserts on his menu.

Firstly as a palate cleanser he served up what he describes as a Grapefruit and Basil Sandwich. It was a slab of pink grapefruit sorbet of such a lovely intense flavour sandwiched between two thin pieces of crispy meringue that had the addition of basil within. Simply placed on a plate with an undercarriage of Jordi Rocas milk chocolate “Rocalat” effectively milk chocolate shavings as used within the local infamous “Roca” ice cream parlour. God this was good and got us all excited as what else was going to be served up.

Next came what the menu described as Original Beans Virunga 70% – Forastero Beans from the Congo, a lactic free Cremosa of Cru Virunga served with Olive Oil financier, sea water and blackcurrant crisps. This was pure artistry in the visual sense as well as the eating sense. The Cremosa or mousse like chocolate quenelle in the centre of the plate was surrounded by two little olive oil cakes with the addition of little round discs of crispy sea water and then a wafer thin scroll of blackcurrant that melted in the mouth and provided an amazing combination to the fruity flavour of the chocolate. The salty flavour of the sea water crisps were revolutionary.

I know Damian has recently developed a chocolate ganache that also uses the sea water sourced from a natural marine park off the coast of Ibiza. It was another level from the previous dessert and got me thinking how do you follow this!

Well only Damian could follow it with yet another chocolate dessert and this was showcasing a chocolate I know Damian is very passionate about. Listed as Pacari Raw 70% it is a chocolate he imports himself direct from the plantation. He served it slightly warm in a glass plate bowl aerated using a nitrogen dioxide siphon, garnished with chopped pieces of raisin biscuits and a delicate jasmine tea sorbet to cleanse the mouth between each mouthful  it was inspired and whilst simple to look at has taken many months of tweaking and re working to achieve such a memorable finish to what had been a stunningly good meal.

Coffee served with a trio selection of the water ganache chocolates Damian is famous for completed the meal – spherical white chocolate & raspberry truffles and a dark chocolate and mint truffle came served on little white spoons and a oval salted peanut chocolate completed the trio.

At the 45 Euros per person including the wines it was amazing value for money and well worth the trip. In fact I can not recommend the region and the city enough, it has such a diversity and the arrival of Damian within the city has rekindled his love affair with the area and means even more can now experience the passion he has for chocolate. The small boutique within the restaurant means you can purchase his chocolates directly and the meeting room adjacent will also be used for private parties and tutored tastings. I felt privileged to have been there on their opening night and I know my friends from Barcelona were equally impressed.

I cannot wait to return again in February when I will be back in the area… just go and check out the flights to the area , book a ticket and get yourself there to sample what has been the best meal experience I have had in a while.

I wish the team the best of luck and hope they survive and prosper in a competitive market as well as testing times in Spain – when you get there just tell them Hari sent you!

Mimo d’en Damian, Pou Rodo. num 12, 17004 Girona

Tel +34 972 202 124   email : restaurant@mimodamian.cat

www.mimodamian.cat

Benvinguts Girona…


Having driven down to our French home for our half term break we felt this trip would not be complete without a quick trip across the border to Girona in Spain. The main reason for our visit was to rendezvous with “super chocolatier” Damian Allsop and his partner Anna. They until about eight weeks ago were based just outside Tunbridge Wells. Then after much heart searching and deliberation took the decision to up root their business to Anna’s home area of Girona in northern Spain

Damian equally familiar with the region as he had previously worked at the now infamous highly rated Cellar Can Roca (Just awarded the best restaurant in the world) So after loading up the removal lorry and then the disposal of some two tonnes of assorted stuff at the North Farm tip in Tunbridge Wells a group of us had met up in the town for a quick coffee and farewell. It was with some sadness but a new chapter was about to begin for this pair and I can now report they really have landed well and truly on their feet with this move.

The long drive south over a total of three days was according to Damian not the finest gastronomic experience – I fully understand his frustration with French Gastronomy – a little hit and miss these days. Anyway once ensconced back in the Catalunya region they set about trying to find a location to set up their production unit. Some abortive attempts led finally to something of a gem.

Their unit in Kent was quite large and had been set up for the past seven years. This Spanish unit could not be more perfect. They are renting space form an outside catering company based on an industrial estate in the area of Banyoles. (This is where they held the Olympic rowing for the Barcelona Olympics!) Located somewhat befittingly behind the local Haribo Factory they have an air conditioned and sectioned area of a modern purpose built kitchen plus their own frozen and chilled storage.

Why Spain I hear you all ask well as Damian explained the rent they paid back in the UK was 5 times more plus then charges for the transportation of the finished product was twice what they are now paying from Spain. They still have to work out how their “On Line” shop is to work but their UK distributor for trade orders seems to be well settled and we saw the next palette load of chocolates being finished off ready for dispatch.

What is equally important is they are now trying to establish a work life balance that will ensure the survival and expansion of their business. The struggle for them over the last couple of years had taken its toll on the business and the decision to up root and change location was one they did not take lightly but now seem to be all set to develop the business in new and exciting ways.

I know the region reasonably well having owned a property across the border in France for the last 15 years and it is an inspiring part of the world with not only a wonderful focus on foods and products but a heritage that is something we can be envious of. Festivals abound for foods such as Cherries, Apricots, Onions and restaurants of note seem to flourish in the region.

Whilst we visited the area we joined Damian and Anna for a lunch at one such place. Anna’s sister and husband operate a now well established restaurant in the old quarter of Girona. Mimolet located on Carrer Pou Rodó, núm. 12, it is just a short walk from one of the more quirky tourist attractions in the town. The “Lion of Girona” has an infamous history that the rite of touching or kissing the rear will guarantee a happy return to the city.

Well following what was a very enjoyable lunch with top notch local produce from crispy bread toasts infused with garlic and tomato and a selection of local cured meats including a rather scrummy local Botifarra sausage of black and white varieties.

We settled into some rather well executed dishes… my starter sounded in the English translation all rather comical “Warm Cream of Gourd, Ginger, Blinis with Spawns of Herring and a “creaking” of Botifarra” – what came was a very pretty and delicate arrangement of a dry soup plate with the then addition of a light soup of squash – the spawns of herring was a pile of vibrant orange herring roe and the creaking of Botifarra was cubes of that black and white sausage scattered across the dish. It was a lovely balance of flavours and textures

The main courses we chose ranged from a Cannelloni of Roasted Chicken with a rich truffle sauce to a truly magnificent and unctuous Honeyed Veal of Girona with a slice of fresh Foie Gras and a red wine sauce. The “Veal of Girona” was a slow cooked beef cheek that just fell apart and garnished with baby glazed onions and a generous slice of foie gras the addition of some strands of fresh wild asparagus illustrated so perfectly the marriage of local produce and again balanced flavours and textures.

To complete the meal a little hot chocolate fondant with a homemade ice cream was simply divine and along with coffee and a selection of Damian’s water ganache chocolates the kissing of that lions bottom for us was not a requisite to ensure we make a return visit.

It was so good to see Damian & Anna so animated about the future and I am sure the move whilst a bold one will be a resounding success as there is so much scope to expand the business in so many exciting ways… we will be back and look forward to repaying their hospitality and also make sure you do explore the town for some of its other hidden gems like the amazing ice cream parlour “Rocambolesc Gelateria” inspired by Roald Dahl and operated by the Roca brothers and then the Rambla in the old quarter and the terrace of Independence Square all cry out for our return visits! We still have to kiss the lions bottom if nothing else.

Damian Allsop Chocolates – c/o El Ginjoler Catering, Poligon Industrial Pont – Xetmar, E-14 Cornella del Terri 17844 Spain

The next generation…

I have now for the past couple of years been asked by my daughters school to teach a Masterclass to year 10 Food Tech students. To try and give them a bit of realism and give them some tips and ideas on food preparation in a professional kitchen.

So this last week I duly arrived at Maidstone Girls Grammar School to prepare and teach a class of 20 students the intricacies of boning a chicken, making a new potato and spinach terrine and then finally having been given the “water” chocolate mousse recipe by Damian Allsop I felt it was of sufficient interest to also get them making this.

It was a packed day as I started off by showing them how to joint a chicken and stuffing its French trimmed breast ready for roasting and serving with a wild mushroom ragout.  The making of the terrine (a quiche without the pastry basically) and then presenting two finished plates to illustrate some presentation ideas.

Well I was impressed their teacher Mrs Meek was keen to give each girl a whole chicken to work with as this was no small cost. So as they all settled into first quickly making their own terrines and then boning their chickens there was a great deal of grimacing and  squeamish face pulling as they were made to handle the chickens. It is a sad state that we have become so anaesthetized by handling fresh unprepared foods so much. They did a remarkable job some obviously better than others but overall they all managed to produce a boned stuffed and rolled breast of chicken.

With the terrines now out of the oven and cooling down we then had chance to quickly knock up some Irish soda bread as well. There was not a spare 5 minutes to be had as I had set them a deadline of 12:30 to serve up the terrine and then the chicken so they could all sit down and eat together.

Well they just about did it… the classroom looked a bit like a bomb had hit it but overall it was a success and they all seemed to like the terrine and the “monster” sized chicken breasts also seemed to get devoured! The bread was a triumph apart from a couple of students who managed to forget that all important addition of bicarbonate of soda to act as the rising agent! I guess the reading of the recipe will be high on the agenda next time!

So fed and rested (a bit) the afternoon session kicked off with the chocolate dessert. We firstly had to blow up small water bomb balloons to act as the mould to make little chocolate cups that we could then use as a casing for the finished mousse. This required a large pot of chocolate melted and tempered ready for the balloons to be dipped and left to harden. I had warned them if the chocolate was too hot they had a tendency to explode! This they duly did on several occasions but overall we managed to get 20 plus balloons chilling!

The mousse was then started by melting chocolate over a saucepan of hot water (bain marie) and the egg whites were whipped to soft peak meringues with some added sugar and the chocolate was then emulsified with some water and agar agar mix. This all then combined ensured the mousse was light and the absence of cream means a much cleaner flavour. The girls all did an amazing job as it was all a bit unfamiliar and the cries of “I don’t like dark chocolate” were turned to “OMG this is a bit of alright” As I dished out some Damian Allsop water ganache chocolates to them all to sample and I showed them how to plate up the mousse and garnish. One girl presented a truly magnificent example that had a true “Faberge Look” about it and it even garnered praise from the man himself Damian Allsop via Twitter when he tweeted a few days later.

@emmamurphy_98: Well done to you too!! I wish i was there, but it looks like @MrHariCovert has it well under control 😉

As the girls departed with their extra mousses for their family to taste at home and we tidied up and packed away I reflected they had done an amazing job in the time given. It was good to see them not only embrace a task they viewed with trepidation but also thoroughly enjoy foods and products they were unfamiliar with.

So next year will be a new challenge and we hope a new set of budding cooks will step up to the challenges we set them.

The recipes used can be found via the following links

Warm New Potato & Spinach Terrine with Chorizo Dressing

Irish Soda Bread

Chicken Breast with A Wild Mushroom Stuffing & Wild Mushroom Ragout

Damian Allsops “Water” Chocolate Mousse

EmWilco Supperclub… a review…

I have been wanting to try some of the competition in the way of other Kentish Supperclubs and I finally managed to get along to a relatively new one. I know of three other supper clubs in Kent now since I first opened my doors over three years ago. It is always hard to try and find a date when I am free and also a competitor supper club is doing an event.

Finally I found a spare Saturday night in early May (2013) when I had no commitments but there was a competitor supperclub hosting an event. My apologies to both Annies Supperclub and also The Fat Carrot I will get to one of your events one day!

So Mrs HC and myself set off to deepest Faversham a total fifty mile round trip to sample a supperclub that is run by Emma Wilcox in the Macknade Farm Shop on the A2 outside of the town centre. Emma has been operating them in this venue since about April 2012. I had been in twitter correspondence with Emma for some time as I am very keen to try and get all the Kent Supperclubs together at one event and see if we can all showcase together what we do as we are so varied. Annie’s in Bromley is Gluten Free,The Fat Carrot in East Peckham specialise in Vegetarian and EmWilco like me loves to showcase local produce.

So we duly arrived at the venue and whilst a few minutes early we awaited in our car and watched other attendees arriving. Then at just before 7pm a side door to the farm shop opened and we all tumbled out and were led through the vast farm shop aisles to the far end and what by day is the cafe and used for Emma’s dining area. We were welcomed with a glass of Spanish cava and then some plates of nibbles were handed round to guests.

The table we were all to be seated at was one long table seating the thirty guests booked in and some clambered for their places whilst others nervously held back. The nibbles proffered were thin slices of cured duck breast akin to Pata Negra ham and then slices of bread topped with a smoked cod and red pepper pate. We then chose our places and sat down and were promptly joined by a couple next to us. Conversations started to flow as we found they (John & Linda) had come along to meet new people having just moved to the area and when we told them what we did and they quizzed us further we realised we both knew someone in common… so it just goes to show how small the world is.

So as we all relaxed and got into the evening a big platter of homemade sourdough bread was placed at intervals along the table… they got quickly devoured and replenished as they were really good!

The first course up was a vibrant and wonderful fresh tasting nettle soup flavoured with wild garlic pesto and a poached quails egg. A well accomplished dish that set the tone well for the evening. My only critique was the egg was overcooked and more hard boiled and did little for the soup but otherwise it was a great start!

Next came a crab tart. Emma had waxed lyrically on her blog pre dinner about the origins and memories of this dish and we were all presented with a generous slice of soft unctuous full flavoured tart with a lovely depth of flavour. Simply garnished with watercress and pea shoots. A stunning dish that illustrated so perfectly Emma’s passion for quality ingredients that are simply handled.

Conversations flowed and it was interesting to observe the dynamics of the table. For me it was a shame that such a large table seemed to discourage mixing with fellow guests and as darkness fell and main lighting was toned down we were subjected to just candle lit tables adorned with bottles filled with fresh wild flowers and spring blossom.

Main course then arrived and this was a well thought through dish of roasted lamb cutlets beautifully rose pink with a puree of flageolet beans and some very tannic tasting greens and a roasted baby leek. A garnish of wild garlic flower heads offset the plate perfectly. It was well executed but for my palate just a touch lacking in salt and was also not as hot as I would have liked. I know from experience that trying to serve 30 people all at once from an unfamiliar kitchen is always a challenge. Emma did admirably well and we all tucked in and savoured the juicy lamb chops.

The main course cleared away meant it was time for dessert… Emma had chosen to make little chocolate mousse pots served with a lovely chewy sour cherry amaretti biscuit, one seemed hardly enough as they got devoured all rather too quickly.

So that was it… dessert devoured some guests started to leave and I thought this was a bit strange as surely coffee was on it’s way… well that was it – no coffee… my only gripe as with a 40 minute drive home a little cup of coffee would have been the ideal finish to what had been a good meal. I did not question Emma on this point but guess there is a reason why?

With Mrs HC on the drive home we pondered how our experience had been and we agreed it was a good one. Different to how we do ours but nonetheless and an enjoyable night out and some good food. A great introduction to a secret Supperclub if you have never been.

May Mayhem… our next dinner

Well we are now opening the booking for our next dinners scheduled for the 17th & 18th May at our normal secret location. We will have 12 spaces up for grabs each evening so booking early is vital to secure your places.

We have titled this one “May Mayhem” as the full force of spring we hope will now be fully upon us and the menu will reflect this.

We will kick the evening off with a welcome glass and some seasonal nibbles and then the first course will be a freshly made asparagus risotto using “Mill Farm Marden, Asparagus”. A creamy unctuous risotto will be packed full of this quintessential English vegetable!

We will then serve a dish of fresh mackerel fillets which will be accompanied by a chutney of roasted rhubarb to cut against the oiliness of the fish and served atop a base of crushed jersey royal potatoes perfumed with freshly foraged wild garlic. A garnish of green beans will be served alongside this.

Our cheese course selection will be once again served with our porridge oat biscuits and homemade banana jam!

The final course will be a rather special one… we will make the “Damian Allsop” recipe for his water chocolate mousse and serve it in its own rather unique chocolate bubble!

The chocolate will be the star here as the use of water rather than cream ensures a much cleaner flavour!

Coffee will be served with petit fours to complete the meal !

Date: 17th & 18th May 2013

Time: 7:30pm Arrival 8:00pm Dinner served

Price: £35 Donation per person (Service not included)

Menu

“Mill Farm Marden” Asparagus Risotto

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Fresh Mackerel Fillets with Roasted Rhubarb

Crushed Jersey Royals & Green Beans 

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Hari’s Cheese Selection & Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Damian Allsops “Water” Chocolate Mousse

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Coffee & Petit Fours

NB: Menu subject to market purchases and alterations

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Please complete our Booking Form. We will normally contact you within 48 hours to confirm your booking with a credit card number.

Spilling the Beans on “Eat like a King”… well almost

 

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.

Die Schwiez… snow, sun and great grub!

Well this time last week we were in a snowy Switzerland for a short break… we arrived to a blizzard and within 24 hours of constant snowing we had some ten inches of snow and a total white-out.

We were staying with friends in a sleepy village that had no local shops without having to drive a bit to get your local produce. Well we were well and truly spoilt with some great grub… we kicked it all off on the Saturday night with a rather sumptuous little starter of Beetroot Carpaccio with orange and feta cheese.  It was a dish that has inspired me to try something a bit similar at a future Hari dinner so watch this space! A rather yummy fillet of beef with sun dried tomato sauce was the main course and we tucked into some local cheeses (plus some Winterdale Shaw and Stichleton I had taken with me) and a very nice and I mean very nice bottle of vintage Port.

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Then on the Sunday evening we sat down to a real Swiss classic of Cheese Fondue. The marriage of a melted cheese and white wine served with cubes of bread is a very social one and this was very much the case as some other friends joined us all. It was very much a loud and boisterous evening  as we all tucked into some great fondues and supped some local kirsch and some local white wine (Never red wine as some would think – it will clot the cheese in your stomach)

Our friends unfortunately had to go back to work on the Monday morning so left to our own devices we set off on a bit of a trek across Switzerland as we were keen to visit a chocolate factory and there is none better than the Nestlé Cailler factory in the town of Broc near Gruyère.

It has been some thirty plus years since I was last at the factory and it has changed a great deal. They have made it much more theatrical than I recall and it is a veritable conveyor belt with small groups setting off every 5-10 mins with whatever language required! It was fun and the best bit was then end of the production line for the mini Cailler Branches where a tray awaited to be sampled and then the tasting room at the end of the tour was another excuse to stuff your face with a range of their chocolates.

Then in true tourist attraction fashion you were led out into the retail shop where Mrs HC and little miss HC were in chocolate heaven as they filled their bags with more chocolate. It was a great visit that we much enjoyed.

We then headed off down the road to the village of Gruyère where we went to see the production of the classic Gruyère cheese. Again it had been thirty years since my last visit and this was also very different from my memory with a much more interactive approach. The little sample packs we were given as tasters were welcomed and as we departed past the ageing caves the rows and rows of big cheese wheels were a truly awesome sight!

We then drove up the road to the town of Fribourg to meet with some other friends for dinner and this time it was another type of Fondue (Chinese). Many think of Switzerland as expensive but this place just over the road from various faculties of the University was great value for money. Eat as much as you want and a total bill for five of us was under £100 including all drinks was pretty good!

It was a long drive home and a great day out!

Well the sun certainly shone on the Tuesday morning with blue cloudless sky and the view from the friends home across the lake and across to the mountains was a great view to wake up to. It was hardly a difficult decision we would today go up a mountain! The next decision was by which method and the desire for a cable car meant we had only one choice nearby – the Rigi beckoned and meant we had to head off to the village of Weggis to take the Luftsielbahn up to Rigi – Kaltbad!

Well it was stunning… the abundance of snow and the great views made it all rather magical and we sat down to a typical mountain restaurant lunch of a Bratwurst and Zweibel Sauce (Onion Gravy) and a rather well made Apfel Torte and a the coffee finish was a Schümli Pflümli – a real local speciality of a schnapps filled coffee topped with whipped cream was a perfect way to end the mountain visit.

As we descended in the packed cable car the views were really breathtaking and memorable as we looked out onto the city of Lucerne and the calm still waters of the Vierwaldstatersee. Pilatus the mountain that overlooks the city of Lucerne looked majestic as did the other snow capped peaks and it was perfect way to end the visit.

Dinner that night back at our friends was my responsibility, a simple “Rösti” potato cake with pork escalopes in a wild mushroom sauce (Steinpilz aka Cepes) was followed by meringues filled with thick double cream from Gruyère. It had been another stunning day and as we said our goodbyes and good-nights to our friends (early departure to work the next morning for them) we promised we would be back again for a return visit before too long.

Our final day in Switzerland was spent in the city of Zurich (where I had spent my formative years on leaving college) dashing in and out of the upmarket department stores of Globus & Jelmoli on the Bahnhofstrasse and yet more chocolate shopping in Migros City! Our final meal was at the Turf Bar of Hotel Ascot. This piano bar is something of an institution in this banking quarter of Zurich as high powered banking conversations were going on all around us! The “Weiner Schnitzel” the size of a dinner plate and wafer thin and crisp was beautifully executed.

It had been a perfect visit to Switzerland, great food, great company, views and weather what more could we have asked for… it had been inspiring… now look out for that new starter to appear on a future Hari dinner…

Damian Allsop “Pop Up” shop for Christmas…

Well Tunbridge Wells is in for a treat and I’m glad to say Hari Covert has been playing his part….

We have been acting in a consultative capacity with a local developer to help a certain person open their first retail outlet in the town in the form of a “Pop Up” shop.

We can now announce that the amazingly talented chocolate maker Damian Allsop will be selling his amazing range of chocolates from a special outlet at 8 Chapel Place in the centre of Tundbridge Wells.

The shop will initially open with a glittering opening party (invitation only) and then from Thursday 22nd November the shop will be open every Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 11:00am to 7:00pm until December 20th when it will be open every day until 4pm on Christmas Eve.

The shop will be selling his complete range of chocolates as well as some little extras… namely you could pop in for a hot chocolate and a pipette shot that will warm those hectic  shopping forays on the run up to Christmas.

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Damian will also be on hand to answer those queries as to what makes his chocolates so special. His chocolates are ground breaking as he uses water in his ganache – this means they have a much cleaner flavour and perfectly suit those that have allergies to dairy products.

To check out his chocolate range then go to his web site here.

This will be a perfect place to pick up a very unique local Christmas gift and a great way to support a true local food hero as well… watch this space for more details.