Tag Archives: Moodley’s Brewery

From Nose to Tail…a veritable collection of local charcuterie…

It was a bitterly cold Thursday morning when I swept into Shipbourne Farmers market near Tonbridge to collect some ingredients for a home brew from Moodley’s Beer and Wine Kits. At the entrance was a table laden with some rather good looking Salami and cured meats plus a plethora of smoked fish… It was a bit of a shock to then discovered they had all been produced in Kent and were the brain child of former Chef Paolo Rigoli and his partner Dalton Hopper. These were the real deal and Paolo willingly kept slicing a piece from each to let me sample… charcuterie overload or what….

I purchased some to take home and try and duly demolished in double quick time and then ordered some more to use at my pop up dinners in February when we did a small board of charcuterie to start off our Fondue parties. Their Tuscan salami was an amazing product – made with red wine, fennel seeds and some bigger pieces of fat the resulting salami is a real gem. I duly purchased whole lot more in readiness for my March Beer dinners as well. Including their small snacking salami aptly called a beer stick that is designed to go with a glass of beer!

Then recently I arranged to go over and see their production set up… It was an eye-opener and good to see how two passionate young lads have for a fairly modest sum set up a true artisan business. They have assorted Porta-Kabins that are the production kitchens and then an old refrigerated unit that has been adapted to be their curing chamber.

Then another area for smoking of the fish. In just over six months of production this set up is already not able meet sufficiently the demand they have created from the selling via the Farmers Markets they go to along with a growing wholesale demand as well. Plans to put in another curing chamber will mean they can then increase production of the larger joints they wish to cure and store such as the Parma Ham style legs, Coppa and Lomo joints. The legs taking up to eighteen months to reach their optimum maturity. The smaller salamis and sausage style meats taking less time means they would have greater capacity to meet the demands.

For Paolo it has been a steep learning curve as he gets to grip with the legislation and demands of running a new business. Dalton still works full time in his front of house role at a nearby restaurant so supports where and when he can. It truly is good to see such passion and dedication to produce what is a very fine product and I urge you to seek out their products at one of the Farmers markets they attend namely Shipbourne, Aylesford, Elm Court and Tonbridge and then also Horniman Market in south London.

Take a look at their web site for more details on the range of products http://www.kentcateringltd.co.uk/

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March onwards…

We love a good glass of beer and we thought what could be a great theme for our March dinner event would be to pair up once again with Yudhistra Moodley of Moodley’s Craft Beer & Wine Making (we last hosted a dinner with Moodleyshim in January 2012) and this time are offering something a bit different. We have always loved using his beer especially in our beer bread.

Yudhistra only brews his beers to  order now commercially but he is however now selling “The Simple Beer Kit” mostly through Farm Shops  and local farmers’ markets including Tunbridge Wells Town Hall, Tonbridge, Aylesford, Hildenborough, Lamberhurst, Shipbourne Horsmonden , West Malling & Robertsbridge and then his web site on the Internet. All so you can brew your own high quality home brew using brewing quality ingredients. You can follow him on twitter @moodleyslimited or on Facebook at Moodley’s Limited

We have teamed up with him for our dinners on Friday 13th & Saturday 14th March when we will be serving a simple beer themed supper to our guests. We will also for each pair of guests be providing a simple beer kit for you to take home and try brewing yourself. Yudhistra will also be on hand each night to answer any brewing questions you may have on how to make a successful brew.

musselsFollowing a welcome drink and beer themed nibble we will kick the evening off with a bowl of freshly cooked fresh mussels cooked in a home brew and served with our now somewhat infamous beer bread.

We will then go onto the main course dish a classic pork shoulder stew braised in beer with carrots and onions. We will serve this with a herby bulgur wheat and some purple sprouting broccoli – a good warming bit of comfort food

Decadent Chocolate TorteFinally we will then serve a classic chocolate cake made with a dark beer that will be served with a compote of blood oranges and some mascarpone cream.

Then with coffee and we will serve some petit fours.

We think it will be a fun night with the added benefit of a take home beer kit with full instructions on how to make your own home brew, what could be better?

Arrival: 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation: £40 per person including for each pair a Moodleys Simple Beer Kit (retails at £30)

Service not included

Menu

Poached Fresh Mussels in Beer with Hari’s Beer Bread

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Beer Braised Pork with Carrots & Onion

Herbed Bulgur Wheat

Purple Sprouting  Broccoli

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Chocolate & Porter Cake, Blood Oranges & Mascarpone

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Coffee & Petit Fours

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

Going Underground again… well almost

It was a lovely balmy summers evening when I was driving up Wrotham Hill with the car loaded up with goodies for a return dinner at Winterdale Shaw.

Robin & Carla Betts the hard working and passionate artisan cheese makers were to host a couple of days of a cheese workshop for the “West Country Cheese makers”. This was a milestone for this little select group as I am led to believe this is the first time they will have ever held such a workshop away from the West Country.

Following on from our September 2011 event Robin was keen to provide something a bit different for these cheese gurus so he asked me to cook and serve a similar dinner to what we did back then. It was to be a relaxed affair and I am glad to say it was to be held above ground in a marquee to the side of the barn (erected for a public event a few days later) so the steep cellar steps were not an issue this time and the little kitchen we were to work from had a bit more kit as well.

So the menu we served was pretty similar to the previous one so we could showcase their cheeses. Firstly some nibbles of chilled gazpacho soup shots and deep fried cauliflower cheese beignets were the nibbles and then they all sat down to the first course of double cooked cheese soufflé topped with smoked haddock and some salad leaves. They also rather enthusiastically devoured a loaf of Moodleys Beer Bread which I have to say unsurprisingly garners rave comments every time I serve it!

Robin & Carla were also keen to showcase their nearby neighbours Free Range Pork (Roundwood Orchard Pigs) so a gorgeous four plus kilo joint of rolled Pork Shoulder was slowly roasted for some 5-6 hours and the skin crisped to perfection. Served with a gravy laced with dried apricots it provided a nice citrus kick to the richness of the tender meat and well between 7 hungry souls got just about completely devoured in one fell swoop! A gratin dauphinoise and medley of vegetables accompanied this.

Finally I served up the dessert that on Carla’s request was not the junket we served originally as she felt it was an acquired taste! So some soft squidgy home-made meringues were sandwiched with whipped cream with added lemon curd and then some “Mill Farm” strawberries. This again was polished off with gusto, these cheese gurus can certainly eat!

By this time gone eleven pm I was pooped and needed my beauty sleep as I had an early start the next morning with a breakfast meeting I left them to their final course of cheeses with my porridge oat biscuits. I was mortified I could not stay and sample some of the goodies on offer. There was one rogue but magnificent cheese on offer a rather runny Brie de Meaux that a rogue Frenchman had bought along ( I did not quite establish how he was part of this select group)

It was a fascinating evening as I listened into their conversations on the tribulations and trials of cheese making. The story of West Country floods and how one of them managed to write off his Land Rover Discovery by thinking they could cross a flooded road was hilarious and I believe made BBC news headlines much to his disgust.

The passion they all have for their chosen craft was evident in bucket loads and you should just click the links below for their assorted web sites to get a flavour of how serious they all are to produce a product we can all enjoy and savour. Robin & Carla can also be proud of their achievements of being part of this select group with some incredible history and I know it was also a bit of a double celebration as they had just managed to secure the long awaited planning permission to convert the upper portion of their barn to be living accommodation for them and their young children.

The Cheese Makers Workshop at Winterdal Shaw July 2013

Winterdale Shaw (the hosts|)

Westcombe Dairy

Keens Cheddar

Montgomery Cheddar

Hafod Welsh Organic Cheddar

It was a scorcher….

Well, we could not have planned our latest round of dinners any better… it was some thought foolhardy to try and host two dinners back to back “up the garden” totally alfresco. It was ambitious on many levels as we had to transport food from the kitchen across the decking down to the bottom of our long garden.

As we monitored the weather, prior to the dinners, we were pleased to see there was a predicted heat wave on its way and so the fears of being rained upon or being unseasonably chilly were forgotten and we readied ourselves.

The menu we put together was one we had devised for an aborted “pop up” in a lavender field .Too good to not offer to our guests and so we decided to run it at our own secret venue.

The day arrived and the sun shone.  We readied our patio with gazebo and the fire-pit was all stoked up.  It was a gorgeous evening with warmth lingering as the sun set across the patio. The Friday night was a more genteel evening for us as we only had six diners in total, as guests arrived we then realised it was to be a bit of a wedding anniversary fest as one set were celebrating 40 years each and the other was a mere “whipper snapper” at 27 years! We served up our welcome drink, a glass of kir royal, and our nibbles were little shot glasses of chilled fresh asparagus soup, butter popcorn dusted with smoked paprika and some slices of Catalan Fuet Salami.

With the fire-pit glowing we then began the process of cooking the meats, as we served up the first course. A Smoked Haddock, Potato and Apple Brawn garnished with a horseradish cream and melba toast – it was a great way to start a meal as it was light and summery with good fresh flavours. The haddock was barely cooked as it was warmed by the hot apple juice jelly as it was poured into the moulds that set the brawn. I will have to experiment with some other versions of this for some future dinners I think! ( A jambon persille will likely appear at a future dinner now!)

So the meats we then cooked on the fire-pit were rumps of Lamb that had been studded with garlic and rosemary, boneless chicken thighs were marinated in garlic, olive oil lemon juice and chopped thyme. Some wonderful thick Magret de Canard (Barbary Duck Breasts) and then sausage were turned with regularity to ensure an even cooking and then at the last minute we placed some large shell on king prawns to grill.

All this was served with our chosen salads – Green Bean with toasted pine nuts, Cherry Tomato with thinly sliced red onions Olive Oil Baslamic Vinegar and Fresh Basil and a grated carrot with an onion and roasted cumin dressing for a bit of a kick. Pots of homemade aoili were provided to accompany the prawns & meats. Bowls of butter minted boiled new potatoes were also served.

Guests tucked in on both nights to a veritable feast and much praise for the lamb and duck breast. In fact there was little left over as we cleared plates away in readiness of our next course. In true French fashion we served our cheese selection. A local cheddar cheese and favourite… Winterdale Shaw from Wrotham Hill – now a totally carbon neutral cheese-  was served alongside a piece of Stichleton an unpasteurised “Stilton” cheese and then a piece of fresh goats cheese that was served with some of our homemade banana jam and our veritable Porridge oat biscuits.

The final course served was a melee of summer fruits, Local Strawberries, Raspberries, Cherries and Blueberries served with a scoop of earl grey & lavender sorbet and also some of our homemade strawberry parfait. With a freshly baked shortbread biscuit that was topped with some foraged meadowsweet pollen sugar it made an interesting combination with a glass of our Muscat de Rivesaltes dessert wine.

As the light faded on both nights and the evening temperature cooled we lit the garden with candle bags and fairy lights and guests conversations ebbed and flowed. It was a really magical atmosphere that seemed to have all leaving enthused by the experience and the comments afterwards in our guest book and by some of the guests on twitter were much appreciated.

from – @lemezma it was absolutely amazing. On behalf of @emzylemez & me thank you so much 😉

and from @Leilanimitchel – AMAZING evening at @MrHariCovert s secret restaurant, a birthday surprise for @mark_head, the surprise was its not his birthday for ages!

It was a tough couple of nights for us as we had to lug all the food up and down the garden and we had a total of 16 guests on the Saturday night and it was a very hot night as well so I must say a big thanks to my helper Julia… she is the unsung hero behind all my events as she has to put up with my mood swings and tantrums as we battle to give the guests a secret adventure to remember!

In between our two nights was also an event I was keen to support and glad I did. A regular attendee and patron of Hari Covert’s is Laura Goode who was behind  the Tunbridge Wells Food Swap. The idea was to grow it, make it and then swap it! There was to be a clandestine meeting of like minded foodies scheduled to be like a flash mob in central Tunbridge Wells on Saturday 13th July at 11am when we would all bring along our chosen foods to swap with others.

Well I had arisen early Saturday to make up two loaves of fresh Moodley’s Beer Bread to go with already packaged up jars of Strawberry Coulis and a couple of jars of Strawberry Jam, and bags of Porridge Oat biscuits with little bags of my salt & pepper mix and a recipe sheet to have a go and make some of their own!

It was great fun to see what I could swap and I must admit I was delighted with my haul of a lovely fresh baked sour dough loaf made by @JPJanetPenny that went down well with my Saturday night guests and the little chocolate and almond petit fours by @sunnyingrid were also well devoured by my guests.

A gorgeous Lemon Drizzle Cake (thanks Sharon) and some of Mike Goode’s Welsh cakes with a cup of tea were also much appreciated. I have yet to sample @TunWellsFoodie Chilli Jam and Laura’s Sun Dried Tomato and Almond Pesto and then Adele’s Spiced Plum Chutney – it was a great simple idea and I urge all fellow foodies to sign up on the web site here and look out for the next one which I think is scheduled for sometime in September – they also have a Facebook page and twitter profile so make sure you follow them if not already doing so!

So it was a real scorcher of a weekend… we are now taking a break till September… we hope to see you sometime soon and please keep checking our site for the latest posting or why not sign up to get our regular newsletters.

Have a fun filled summer break… we will !

Hari C

PS some of the photos are by Leilani who was a guest on Saturday!

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.

October Feast… Hari Fest a report…

We had a very busy weekend with a full house on both nights for our last couple of Hari nights which we loosely named “October Feast”… in fact it was an interesting couple of nights as we decided to do something a little different. Firstly we did a simpler menu, with a choice of dishes for each of the three courses, and then we also did it a little cheaper than our normal donation as it was all a little bit simpler.

Crab Cake…

It all seemed to go down well and what was interesting was the fact that we had  a high proportion of new guests and quite a few parties of two who were forced to share tables. We have tried all sorts of table configurations with our guests… separate tables, a single large one, but what now seems to work best for us is two large tables of six.

It is also quite interesting to find each night is very different with a differing dynamic at the dinners. This time the Friday night we had mostly two’s which meant there was a more rowdy feel to the room whilst the Saturday had one larger party who had their own table and then the other table of four and two seemed to all get on like a house on fire.

We are always fascinated to see how our guests get on and enjoy the experience. We have had some admit to us they were so nervous about where they were coming to etc,

Moodley’s Braised Beef Steak

they drove past the day before to just check us out. Others have said they love the whole mystery of coming out for a meal not knowing whether they will like the food, company etc, to find themselves going home having made new friends and eaten food they would never have dreamt of eating!

We like to try and slightly challenge our guests to try something new and for many they might find it a big ask but this is all part of the fun. Our recent Chinese nights were for one party a big eye-opener as they admitted to me afterwards they were not normally keen on Chinese but we had converted them… then we had one guest admit at a dinner he did not normally eat pork but he loved the main course that was pork done three different ways!

Panga Fish Fillets with caper & lemon butter sauce

The best way to enjoy a secret supper is to enter into the spirit of the evening… be open minded about the food, company and the whole event and you will have some real fun. One guest at the last dinners even admitted realising my name was not Hari Covert had dreamt up a complete new persona for herself and was thinking of becoming a high class hooker for the night making out her husband, who she thoughtfully was dining with, was her pimp. It caused much mirth and merriment amongst her fellow diners on the table when she admitted it had been her plan but she ended up just being “plain Jane from Tonbridge” (not her real name or abode).

For us it never ceases to amaze us how guests gel and my side kick commonly known as  “the hands” is oft confused as my wife but has been a friend, former neighbour and work colleague over a great many years, she seems to relish meeting each new and returning guest.

She perfectly seems to put those nervous ones at ease and make them relax whilst the

Cheese Selection

more boisterous and cheeky guests (you know who you are “Terry”) are dealt with aplomb and wit. Her normal day job would make many a toe curl as she works with much of societies detritus in a secure environment and has many a tale to tell that certainly keeps me in stitches… she will take no prisoners…so be warned!

So yet another couple of dinners, are complete and, as is now our policy, to open bookings the day after completing that months dinners. We posted on the next day our November In Vino Veritas dinners and booking form and by the Monday morning we have had 40 people clambering for just 24 places – a first for us and a very humbling thought that there are so many wanting to sample what we offer.

Iced Strawberry Parfait with warm shortbread

We have also been thinking hard about what our plans will be for 2013 and we have just the December dinners to now put the final touches to.

There is much planning go on behind the scenes as we have also been helping a local business open a “pop up” shop for the Xmas period – more on that soon  and we are also hoping to announce something a bit different for the Xmas period that might appeal to some of you out there keen to become better cooks. More on this soon.

If you have never tried a supper club then give them a go… they are fun, different and a real social challenge for those that are a bit shy but we think we will convert you. Check out the following site for more information on where to find them and remember if you want to book Hari you will need to be quick when the booking opens (or ask us about your own exclusive night here at HQ or even in your own home).

Just remember to be open minded and you will find the experience will be rewarding and

yummy….

different and not like your normal dining out adventure.

We hope to see you soon…

Hari Covert

covert by name, covert by nature.

October Feast… another Hari Fest…

Well we thought we would shake things up a bit this month for our October Dinners as we are keen to spread the word to as many as possible about our “Covert” dining experience.

We have decided to provide a slightly cheaper event that will have all the quality of a normal event but is designed to provide perhaps a chance for some new customers to try us and see what all the fuss is about…old ones and regulars are still welcome though.

We will be providing a simpler three course meal with a choice of two dishes at each course that we will be asking guests to pre-order and we will be serving just two larger tables so it means guests will likely be sharing with complete strangers.

We will only be serving a welcome drink on arrival and you will still be able to bring your own drinks to go with your food…Water & Glasses provided as usual.

If you have never tried a secret supper club now is the chance to do so and we promise you will have a fun time, some interesting company, good food and well a night to remember.

The bookings are now open and we will be serving the following menu… Please let us know your choices when completing the booking form…

Dates: Friday 12th & Saturday 13th October 2012 – 7:30pm Dinner 8:00pm prompt

N.B. Menu Subject to Market Purchases…

Homemade French Onion Soup with Cheese Crouton

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Mini Crab Cake with Mixed Seasonal Salad Leaves

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Moodleys “Penshust Pleasure” Braised Beef Steak

or

Fried Panga Fish Fillet with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce

Mashed Potatoes & Seasonal Vegetables

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Homemade Strawberry Parfait with warm shortbread biscuits

or

Hari’s Cheese Selection with Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Coffee & Petit Fours

Suggested donation £25 per person – Service not included

Please complete the following form to reserve you places.We will contact you normally within 24 hours to confirm your booking with a credit/debit card number.

Phew!!! what a week….

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Well it has been one our hardest weeks and challenges yet…

We had our monthly dinners for our little Hot Sizzler and then had a full on week getting ready our Tower Dinner and reception.

In between though I had a quick visit to Oxford to attend a graduation ceremony plus I also had the additional challenge of taking a Masterclass at my daughters school where I was teaching a group of year 10 students a range of culinary techniques! Piece of cake I thought!!!

My admiration and respect goes out to their teachers as I was totally drained physically and mentally after having taught this willing and enthusiastic group of girls.

I showed them my now not so secret porridge oat cheese biscuits and then, we made some wild mushroom arancini, lemon posset and finally in the afternoon session we made double cooked cheese souffles – the dish that kicked off my underground dinner that took place last year at Winterdale Shaw.

The day seemed to fly past and I have to say they all did a magnificent job… it was a real eye opener as to how well the recipes worked in a class of mixed ability. They seemed robust and I will eventually post them on the recipe page… I also put together a little video that explained the cheese making process for the girls that we showed them… It was my first attempt at such a video and only a couple of errors in it so please accept my apologies now!

Then in between the masterclass and our mammoth challenge of the Tower dinner I managed to get bitten on my ankle by something or other that resulted in it swelling up and hurting like hell! So a quick trip to the doctors meant a course of antibiotics and him saying I should put my feet up… fat chance!

So as Saturday dawned the weather seemed bright if a touch windy, but at least not raining! We had wanted to help raise funds for a small little and not so well-known charity YCPS – the Yalding Church Preservation Society. Their role is to help fund projects to the fabric of St Peter & St Paul Church in Yalding… not that sexy or as worthy some might say as life saving work of others. Nonetheless as important and needy we decided to support them in this slightly different way.

We thought what would be better than to serve a dinner on their church roof… It is flat and boasts some stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Simple you might think! I also felt this event should not be elitist but a chance for anyone – so for just a £1 donation a name would be placed in a virtual hat and winners drawn to win one of three pairs of invites.

In my masochistic ways all the more challenging we also thought it would be good to invite a further 25 guests with a fellow guest to enjoy a welcome drink and a canapé reception within the church yard.

So having set up a fundraising page on Virgin Money Giving we managed to raise a much-needed sum of £1,119 not a paltry amount!

The prep work had gone on all week in amongst the other distractions and on the night we managed to churn out the six dinners and canapes for the seventy plus guests. Check out the menus here… Dinner – Canapé

It is however important to say the evening was made even more successful by the support of some local people and businesses. Liquid Pleasure of Tenterden donated some lovely wines. Yudhistra Moodley of Moodley’s Brewery fame brewed a special beer called Summer Solstice and then a new enterprise called Kent Cordials supplied a wonderful fragrant elderflower cordial we used in a cocktail for guests. Finally Tim Fletcher of Rodney Fletcher Vintners provided us with some Herbert Hall English Sparkling wine that went down a treat with the canapes we served.

In all we reckon the whole event managed to raise in excess of £1,500 for the charity and I am pleased to say we had some lovely comments and am sure we will be welcoming some lovely new customers to our little secret place (not so secret now in some circles!!!)

Please do feel free to leave us your comments and thoughts.

Cheers

Hari Covert

Best of British… a report

Well we have had a busy and hectic time with our Best of British dinners that we recently held at the Olive Stores in Brenchley.

We first met the owner Sarah Crysell when she was a guest at our Cheese dinners at Winterdale Shaw last September. We were impressed by her little deli & cafe when we visited and were delighted when she invited us to host some dinners there.

We planned initially to do a dinner last November with Brewer Yudhistra Moodley but had to postpone until January this year and we had a really fun night when we put together a five course veggie feast with his Moodleys Beers.

Well this time we did the two nights with twenty plus guests each night. It is always a challenge to cook in someone else’s kitchen as it means we have to ensure we take every last little thing with us!

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This month we felt it was only right and proper to showcase some great British produce as it will be an action packed summer what with the Queens Diamond Jubilee and then the hosting of the Olympics. In fact we had not fully realised the significance of the weekend what with the start of the Olympic Torch relay and start of ramping up of the Royal celebrations.  We also felt as we head into summer there is a real abundance of some great produce to be had. However the biggest challenge was getting hold of one of the key components. We had such a warm March and then a cold and wet April it has meant the local Asparagus has been a very late and slightly scarce crop this year.

We decided also to kick the meal off with our welcome drink of Bucks Fizz – we used a sparkling Perry with this and served some very British nibbles. Butter and Marmite on little toasts was one, a delicate chilled cucumber and dill soup and then some little mini toad in the holes with some onion jam.

First course was some fresh poached asparagus with Devon crab served as a stack with crisp filo pastry and garnished with some parsley oil.  A savoury concoction that was designed to be a light but visually impressive start to the meal.

The main course we called “This little piggy” as it was to be a bit of a pork fest. We served a pair of pigs cheeks that had been braised in apple juice and then a piece of pork belly that had been slowly poached in lard (confit) that was then crisped in the oven. The belly served with some apple puree to cut the richness of the meat. The garnish was broad beans and Jersey Royals potatoes.

Next we served a selection of the Olive Stores cheeses that they use themselves and sell across their deli counter… what better way to showcase some of the produce they serve..They were Winterdale Shaw, the cheddar made on top of Wrotham Hill, a mild Somerset Brie and then a blue cheese called Smelly Apeth. We had again made our porridge oat biscuits that are something of a signature for us and do take a good while to make. Check out the recipe here

To complete the meal we then served a sherry trifle that we served in individual glasses. The sponge fingers base was soaked well with sherry and then some fresh local strawberries and we then made a custard infused with the worlds most expensive spice… saffron. This is the stamens of an autumn crocus that gives a bright vivid yellow colour but also a lovely scented flavour. It is a spice that is both very expensive and well-known in British cuisine.

To complete the meal with the coffee we served a quintessential British sweetmeat namely fudge but with the twist of the addition of peanut butter.

Our guests were a mixture of new and old and it never ceases to amaze me how they clammer for the spaces. When we initially opened the bookings we found we filled all within the first 48 hours and as numbers fluctuated for assorted reasons we found we were able to fill the vacant spaces quickly from a reserve list…. It is always worth asking for the reserve list if the web site says we are full as we have often found numbers have dipped with these larger events.

So if you attended these dinners we hope you enjoyed them as much as we did. It was a challenge as we know the small kitchen at the Olive Stores has its limitations but overall we think we did a good job… would love the hear what you think! My thanks to Sarah for letting us use her lovely place and we hope to see you there in the future we certainly love popping in for one of their gorgeous cakes a cuppa or something more substantial!

It was also a big foodie event in central Tunbridge Wells over the weekend with the 2nd Pantiles Food Festival. I was a little busy on the Saturday so did not get chance to pop along but on Sunday late morning I managed to pop into the town to have a quick wander.

It was crowded with people and seemed bigger and more varied than last years and as I wandered around I was tempted by everything from bread stalls, cupcakes and vegetables  including some local asparagus! There was one stall that caught my eye with its clever branding. The packaging of black and red boxes for chocolates made using a quintessential British drink Sloe Gin had the very clever name of “Sloe Seduction” Now the marketing possibilities with this got my brain working overtime as I tried to think of how I could use their product…will keep you posted.

There was a crowd watching the cookery demos but it was a talk at 1pm that had got my interest. Damian Allsop is a chocolatier who is based just outside of Tunbridge Wells and I was keen to hear him talk and also sample his chocolates.

He was previously a pastry chef with the likes of Gary Hollihead and Gordon Ramsey and a stint in Spain where he met his wife before he moved to his unit located in Eridge. He has had some great exposure recently with a judging slot on Masterchef. It is however how he makes chocolates that is quite revolutionary. Instead of using cream or butter to make his ganache fillings he uses water.

It was a fascinating talk as he tried to explain the differences between the quality of chocolate and how to recognise the nuances when tasting and what led him to make his chocolates with water and the challenges this brings.

He was so passionate and erudite in his presentation it was hard not to be impressed. I am now keen to visit his set up and explore more about his art and craft. His list of places he supplies with chocolates for their petit fours is impressive and he has some interesting future ideas that he touched upon.

So it had been a fun packed weekend with much to ponder upon. Our June dinners are now open for booking and we already have one night full so be quick if you want to sample a sizzling little dinner!

Cheers

Hari C