Tag Archives: Damian Allsop

Covert Secrets Revealed…

We thought it is about time we offered a structured cookery demo so instead of a dinner event in February we are offering a very special lunch preceded by a live cookery demo.

We will have just four spaces and Hari will demonstrate a full three course menu that you will all sit down to eat. It is a great way to learn some new techniques and tips and Hari will be more than happy to answer any questions along the way.

We will ask all attendees to arrive at 9:45am for a welcome coffee and biscuits. The demo will kick off at 10:00 am prompt and then lunch will be served to all around 1:00pm (or basically when ready)

The dishes that will be demonstrated will be as follows

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Date: Saturday 24th February 2018

Arrival: 9:45 am

Finish: Circa 2:00 pm

Price: £55 per person includes Recipe Sheets and  3 course Lunch


Starter: Ceviche of Smoked Haddock, Celeriac Remoulade & Apple

Main Course: Supreme of Chicken with a Prune & Bacon Stuffing, Red Wine & Prune Sauce

Gratin Dauphinoise & Vegetable Medley

Dessert: “Damian Allsops” Water Chocolate Mousse served with Blood Orange Segments

N.B. Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

If time allows Hari will also demonstrate his Beer Bread and the demo will also show how to bone a whole chicken and the process of making a red wine stock. He will endeavour do everything from scratch (where possible) and will also demonstrate the presentation of the finished dishes. Attendees will also be provided with recipe sheets to take away so they can replicate at home.

This event will only go ahead if all four places are filled so why not get a group together and come and enjoy a live demo followed by a lunch.

To book  your places please complete the form below and we will then confirm your booking with an online invoice for credit card payment to secure your places.

 

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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.

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Cod with Sobrassada Sausage
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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

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

Apple Homage…our October dinners

Well as Autumn fast approaches this months dinner will focus on the humble apple as a key ingredient at each course.

We will kick the meal off with a glass of Kir Normande… A glass of chilled cider with the addition of creme de cassis and some seasonal apple themed nibbles!

The first course will be a homemade brawn of Kentish Apples, Cooked Potatoes and Smoked Haddock set in an Apple Jelly. We will serve this with a light horseradish cream and some crisp Melba toasts. It will be a light start to what will be a fairly hefty dinner.

Next will be a slowly braised pork cheek, cooked in apple juice the tart and slightly sweet flavour helps cut into the richness of the meat and we will serve this alongside a slow cooked and crispy piece of pork belly. We will serve some roasted apple to cut the richness of both meats and the mustard grain creamed potatoes and our ubiquitous serving of green beans will complete the main course.

We will then serve a couple of our favourite cheeses – namely the local cheddar from Winterdale Shaw plus a personal favourite the Stichleton, this is the blue veined cheese from Nottinghamshire made in the traditional way of Stilton from unpasteurised milk. All served with our porridge oat biscuits and our home-made Banana Jam, plus of course some fresh crisp apple as well!

Finally we will serve a Apple, Pine Nut and Cinnamon Torte with a garnish of Salted Caramel sauce and a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. We will also serve a glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes with this as we will have restocked our cellars of our local French wine!

To complete the dinner we will then serve either coffee or tea with an appropriate petit four. I will have the week before the dinners also been down in Spain (Girona) attending the opening of “master chocolatier” Damian Allsop’s new chocolate restaurant and shop so might have imported some special goodies! You will all have to wait and see!

We request a suggested donation of £35 per person (service not included) Guests requested to arrive at 7:30pm with dinner served at 8:00pm promptly.

Dates: Friday 10th (Breakfast Friends – Exclusive Night) Now Fully Booked 

& Saturday 11th October 2014 – Spaces still available


“Apple Homage”

Welcome Drink served with Seasonal Canapé’s

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Kentish Apple, Potato & Smoked Haddock Brawn

Horseradish Cream & Melba Toast

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Apple Juice Braised Pork Cheeks & Crispy Roasted Pork Belly

Roasted Apples, Grain Mustard Creamed Potatoes

Green Beans

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Winterdale Shaw Cheddar Cheese & Stichleton

Hari’s Porridge Oat Biscuits & Homemade Banana Jam

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Apple, Pine Nut & Cinnamon Torte served with Salted Caramel Sauce

and Vanilla Ice Cream

Served with a glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes

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Coffee or Tea with Petit Fours

N.B. Menu Subject to Market Purchases and Ingredient Availability 

To book please complete the form below or click this Breakfast Friends link for their exclusive Friday night.

 

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

Little Social…. a review

It was with a great deal of excitement that I was to meet up with an old friend for lunch at Jason Atherton’s latest central London venture.“Little Social” especially as I had what I would class as my best meal of the year in 2012 at his Michelin starred eatery “Pollen Street Social.”

Well it was a bitingly cold (April) day as I sauntered up Regent Street past the “Hollister Store” with it’s giggling teens and scantily clad, blond haired and blue eyed doormen cheerily welcoming the shoppers. I arrived outside what was an unassuming front door to this new restaurant (it only opened in mid March) just across the road from Pollen Street Social to be warmly greeted by the Polish hostess with impeccable English ubiquitously we discussed the weather!

Seated in what can be best described as a narrow room with a French brasserie feel with red leather banquette booths, black and white photos and old facsimiles of French posters. My first request for a warming coffee was promptly dealt with as I awaited the arrival of my friend. The menu is in two parts – starting with a great value set price prix fixe menu with 2 or 3 courses and then an A la Carte menu of French inspired classics including some specials displayed on blackboards.

What was so appealing to me was how good the waiting staff were. They are like their counterparts across the road professional in their approach but also like the name indicates really social with their guests. They show skills in this area that in my mind should be studied by every budding member of front of house teams on how to do it properly!

My friend duly arrived and as we settled down and made our choices off the very reasonably priced prix fixe menu we were deep in conversation as the restaurant began to fill up. I went with what was termed “Country Pate” served with baby cornichons, salad and a great big stone jar with a stunning Pommery grain mustard. The friend chose the marinated salmon that was served with leaves of little gem lettuce and a garnish of cucumber and radish. It was a real picture on the plate and she cooed satisfyingly all through its consumption!

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Main course choices could have been Lincolnshire Sausages, Mash, Greens with an Onion Gravy or Dorade (Fish) but we both, as it was so chilling and cold out on the streets went for the comfort dish of Lamb Shank with a Haricot ragout and Basil Dressing.

As we tucked into this dish our conversation then was abruptly halted as all of sudden the fire alarm went off. Nobody moves,  nobody flinched all were too engrossed in enjoying their food. Staff rushed about, the ringing continued and my friend then let it be known she had been awoken that very morning by her own home fire alarm at the ungodly hour of 4:30am and had struggled to switch it off! Staff kept popping back to check we were all OK.

Some fifteen minutes later with ringing in our ears we were invited to decamp from our table across the road to PSS and to partake in our puddings there. Staff were so apologetic and could not have been better. We were settled into our new table in a busy restaurant, so we then partook of our dessert and coffee here.

My friend was relieved somewhat not to have that continued ringing in her ears as she wears aids in both and had had to remove them so then duly popped them back in and our conversation resumed.  This was something of a first for the friend of having two separate restaurant venues for a lunch whilst for me it was bit like being back on my inspection routine as we tucked into firstly a little pre dessert nibble brought to the table an apple espuma topped with a crumble crumb.

Dessert just for me was a Lemon & White Chocolate Ganache served with a carrot cake crumb and Basil Ash Meringue that was just the perfect light finish after the richness of the lamb shank.

Then with our coffees we were treated to a rather gorgeous selection of petit fours that ranged from little macaroons of delight to a selection of our local food hero Damian Allsop chocolates.

When it came to pay we had to settle one bill at PSS then walk across the road to settle the other bill in LS. My friend who settled the bills then texted me later “Does today mean you owe me not one but two lunches, I paid 2 bills after all!” – I did offer but I guess all that ringing noise in her ears must have addled her brain… !

I’m certainly not complaining and now trying to work out when I can go back and I would have to say it is well worth it with all the bells and whistles as well!

Little Social – 5 Pollen Street London – 020 7870 3730

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.