After a aperitiv in the shape of a “Pint Shop No. 1” and an introduction by Andrew, Stuart and David of Barker Brothers Butchers demonstrated how to make sausages and how to butcher a pig’s head.
Afterwards, we all had a go at making sausages and butchering half a pig’s head. I didn’t join in the sausagemaking but did butcher a pig’s head with varied results as it’s definitely not easy. I did get enough meat out of it for a decent meal, though.
Then Stuart Barker showed us how they break down a whole side. This was most impressive, even for a task they do several times a week, and he slowed down for us so we could see where and how he was cutting.
Watching and helping with this butchery had made us hungry so we were very keen to sit down and await the meal the chefs in the Pint Shop kitchens had prepared for us:
Crispy Pig’s Head, apple&rhubarb sauce (beer: Moor Revival): Some of the ear pieces were better than others, the best ones were like really good crackling. The rhubarb in the apple sauce added a good edge.
Clams & Cheeks, actually stinging nettles, cider brandy and broad bean sauce (beer: Camden Gentleman’s Wit
The first highlight: Pork shoulder & Ogleshield nuggets (beer: Siren&Elusive Dinner for Four). So soft and juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, with the Tewkesbury Mustard creme fraiche a perfect foil.
Then, the centre piece, a whole suckling pig, slow roasted, pulled and served in steamed buns with green slaw and rhubarb and chilli sauce (beer: Magic Rock Cannonball). Brilliant, just brilliant. I think everyone overstuffed themselves on that course.
The dessert was special, too: Vanilla ice cream with bacon brittle by Jack’s Gelato with an Imperial Stout called “Heaven & Hell” from De Molen. Outstanding! Bacon in ice cream might sound weird but it worked just as well as salted caramel does.
This evening was pretty much perfect. We watched and learned butchery, had a fantastic meal of pork and beer and received a goodie bag with meat (our own butchery plus a roasting joint, a rolled piece of belly in my case) and beer to take home. I hope they will do something similar soon or at least for next year’s event.
There are more photos on flickr.
I found out about this dinner (as so many others recently) via twitter and in the weeks before started following the chef, Damian Wawrzyniak. The photos and descriptions of dishes from other dinners looked right up my street and I decided to take the plunge and ordered a ticket, not least because it included a free lift from Cambridge and back.
The Cook’s Barn in Bottisham is part kitchen showroom and working kitchen with a dining space. On this occasion there was one long table, supper club style. Weather and traffic were horrible so we arrived a little later than planned but weren’t the last by far and dinner only started when everyone had arrived, almost an hour later. There was, however, opportunity to chat with the chef as he prepared ingredients and getting to know the other diners.
Each course was cooked fresh with Chef Damian explaining the ideas behind each dish. He clearly had done this before as the pace of the evening was perfect between watching the cookery, eating and chatting.
The food was excellent, diverse and rather different and adventurous in places. Even odd sounding ideas, like chocolate covered pig skin turned out to be marvellous indeed. Even simple ingredients like kale and cauliflower were transformed into delicious dishes.
The following photos should give you a rough idea of the experience. There are more on flickr.
I finally have the time to update this blog so bear with me as I’ve been rather busy.
First up is Kyung‘s Korean American supper club at the end of January. As much as I dislike the term, Kyung’s food, served in the front/dining room of her house in Cambridge, were indeed classics with a twist.
Take what was simply called “Kimchi Mac & Cheese” on the menu. This turned out to be deep-fried balls of mac and cheese, rather like arancini. The richness of the cheese was balanced by the tangy kimchi (which Kyung makes herself), creating perfect little morsels. I had to try hard not to overindulge as I knew there was plenty more food to come.
Next up was KFC (Korean Fried Chicken), crispy, well-cooked chicken with a spicy and sticky glaze and topped with crushed peanuts. Again, it was hard to stop eating. I would have been happy with just that chicken but a lot more was to come.
A simple beansprout soup was next, which worked as a palate cleanser and washed away the sticky chicken glaze.
The main course was of course Bibimbap, a collection of various vegetables on black rice, served in a big bowl and then thorughly mixed up with a generous helping of Kochujang, the Korean hot sauce, also homemade by Kyung. BBQ spare ribs were served as a little extra protein. Fantastic flavours and textures.
The dessert was equally stunning, an entremet made with a slightly spicy chocolate ganache and excellent dark chocolate. Having been already full, I doubted I would be able to fit in as much as half a slice but it was very light indeed so I believe everyone had seconds.
There are more photos on flickr.
In conclusion, the food was superb, the atmosphere relaxed and all the guests had a good time, making new friends along the way.
Considering this was Kyung’s first attempt at a supper club, she already but herself firmly on the map and I highly recommend signing up for her next one which is going to be on the 15th of March. There should be a few places left.
If you’re in the Cambridge area and interested in food you might know Franglais Kitchen from their blog or twitter account or even one of their cooking classes. Last week they moved into the Cambridge supper club scene with their first offering of French-Indian fusion food. The event was held in their modern home in Cambridge and, with only 12 guests, worked perfectly.
We were greeted by a duo of nibbles, a home made Bombay mix which was so much better than any packed versions I have tried as there seems to be always something inedible in it.
The other bowl of the dish contained some bhel poori, also freshly made, with a fantastic tamarind sauce. Many thanks to Deepa for the permission to use her photo.
The other snack were pani puri, a crispy shell filled with a few bits of crunchy veg, into which a fresh sauce of coriander and mint was poured. Very refreshing with a little zing to awaken your tastebuds.
The meat starter were spiced duck rillettes, mango and papaya chaat, crisp caraway seed flatbreads. The rillettes were very much like what you would get a French bistro in texture and base flavour but enhanced by Indian spices. The fresh chaat cut nicely through the rich meat and the flatbread worked well, too.
The vegetarian starter were roasted peppers with smoked rajasthani Paneer, coriander and mint. I only took the photo but I was assured by those who had it that this starter was equally excellent.
Then there was a Haleem Stew, with slow cooked lamb for the meat eaters and roasted butternut squash for the vegetarians. This rich and flavourful soup came with sourdough naan, which I sadly didn’t take a photo of.
The vegetarian main was BBQ broccoli, aubergine and cauliflower with Achari couscous.
The meat main was roasted poussin with a spiced crust, served with mushroom rice and okra. Extras for both mains were pickled lemons, cucumber raita and more pickles. The poussin was well cooked, the meat tender and moist, its flavour enhanced by cinnamon and star anise. All the sides matched perfectly, too.
The trio of desserts was just as delicious as the previous courses. There was a chilli chocolate macaron with just a hint of the spice, a coconut halva which reminded me of marzipan in texture and a very light chocolate mousse with chocolate “soil” and pistachio. I could easily have eaten another plate of those…
It was a splendid and entertaining evening with excellent food and equally excellent company. Highly recommended. Their next event will be in January. You can sign up for the announcement on their website.
There are a few more photos on flickr.
As with many food events recently, I found out about this on twitter. I had missed the first one a couple of months ago and heard good things so I booked immediately when it was announced. The venue was The Vaults restaurant in Trinity Street.
First there was some simple Italian style bread with olive oil/balsamic vinegar and a nicely punchy aioli. The amuse was a fresh and flavourful gazpacho, a nice idea to get the tastebuds going. As it was served simply in a coffee cup, I did not take a photo.
The starter was a rabbit terrine with pickled vegetables. This was well flavoured and the combination with the pickled, crunchy vegetables worked really well. The chunks of loin down the middle were still moist, too.
The main was a nice piece of pork tenderloin, perfectly cooked (pink) and beautifully tender. This was served on broad beans with chunks of creamy goats cheese and bits of smoky bacon, an excellent combination. Definitely my favourite dish of the evening and easily one of the best pork tenderloin dishes I have had at a restaurant.
The finale was strawberries and lemon posset with good flavours and not too sweet. If I had to be super critical, I would have preferred a crunchy element as well, perhaps some crumble or crushed amaretti biscuits but that was a minor issue.
Overall, this was a wonderful meal with great flavours and good portion sizes that left you sated but not full. The best, however, was the price: All the above for £25, without service. On the other hand, the glass of Chablis I had was rather pricey at £8.50 but I guess that is The Vault’s pricing and not unusual along the main tourist stretch in Cambridge.
On Saturday, I joined the Cambridge Food and Wine Society in an outing to the Gog Magog Hills Farm Shop who had put together a selection of treats for us, both culinary and informative. As we arrived and mingled, we picked up drinks (various wines as well as beers from the Moonshine Brewery, of which I particularly liked the Barton Bitter). In the back of the (still half under construction) shelter two Big Green Eggs had been set up in which our dinner had been cooking away for the last half day or so.
First, however, we were split into two groups, one to do a cheese and wine tasting, the other to watch a butchery demonstration. I was in the latter group who were invited into the back of the butcher’s shop where Miles showed us how to take apart a whole lamb into the various cuts one is used to see in a butcher’s display. Watching a master at work was fascinating and it took him less than 20 minutes.
The next stop was the “canteen” where we had the chance to sample four of their cheeses (all from Neal’s Yard Dairy), each paired with a wine (except the cheddar which was paired with a Moonshine Brewery ale). I had had the Tunworth (a soft Camembert style cheese) before and it’s one of my favourites. The others were a soft goat’s cheese, a mature cheddar with a little blue woven in and a superb Stilton which was creamy and well balanced. Needless to say, all the cheeses were perfectly ripe and well kept.
Back at the shelter, our dinner was waiting. Pulled pork with one of the best home made BBQ sauces I had ever tasted, coleslaw, leaves and sourdough bread. There was also lasagne and pizza, both cooked on the Big Green Egg as well. Sadly, I did not have the opportunity to try any of the latter two but the pork was worth coming to the event alone.
This month’s Dingley Dell Flying Visit took place at Tuddenham Mill in Suffolk.
First on the schedule was a stroll around the meadow led by John Rose of Botanica to see if we could find some forageable plants. Due to the late season there wasn’t much but there was some. John was a font of knowledge not just on the edibility of plants and herbs but also their historical and medicinal uses.
Back at the Mill, a selection of canapés prepared by head chef Paul Foster and his brigade were served: crackling with pea mousse, chickpea wavers, potato skins and Jersey Royals with bacon and avocado. All were excellent and a good indication of what was to come. I didn’t take photos as it turned out juggling a drink, a canape and a camera was beyond my hands’ capacity.
After the traditional introductions by Mark of Dingley Dell Farm and a butchery demonstration during which Thom took apart half a pig in about fifteen minutes, we made our way to the dining room upstairs. There two long communal tables had been set up. We picked our seats and didn’t have to wait long for the first course to arrive:
Mark Poynton‘s dish was a variation of the one he created for the last event at Corpus Christi College: pork liver parfait, slow cooked trotter meat, pickled mushrooms and chopped roasted hazelnuts. The parfait was soft and creamy, the meat well flavoured and the mushrooms brought everything together.
Next up was Eric Snaith of Titchwell Manor with BBQ shoulder, head fritter, in a spicy dashi broth. The smoky shoulder meat worked really well with the spicy broth.
Ben Spalding was next with a superb belly dish: flavoured with spicy chocolate ketchup and served with yogurt (), orzo grains and grapes. This was my favourite dish of the night, soft meat, nice crackling and great, harmonising flavours.
Paul Foster‘s dish was a slab of poached shoulder with broccoli, crispy millet and “pig face hash”. While the shoulder was great, it was the hash that made the dish for me as I just adore slow cooked “cheap” cuts of meat.
Matt Gillan‘s dessert, “Pig in …”, put a smile on everybody’s faces:
The pink chocolate pig’s head was filled with salted caramel and in the “tub” were pistachio sponge, apple mousse, apple jelly, hazelnuts, puff pastry, Guillermo, white chocolate and bacon. Not too sweet, soft, fruity and crunchy. A perfect, light dessert.
The “piggy fours” divided opinion a bit, especially the smoked bacon fudge which was certainly an acquired taste. The pine jelly was good but everybody’s favourite were the Alexander truffles.
This was the third of these Flying Visits I have attended and I think it was the best one yet. The next one is going to be in London on the 20th of May and it’s going to be another big one.
A few more photos below and still more on flickr.
Many thanks to Jean-Luc Benazet (click the link for his official photos) for the lift and Ant for the company.
If you’ve been following the food news in Cambridge, you probably know that Pavitt’s Pies has closed for business. For one last time Carri offered her pies to the public, this time at 12a Club on Market Square (upstairs of Don Pasquale). This evening had originally been scheduled during Eat Cambridge but had to be cancelled due to illness.
On arrival, there was a rather nice aperitif, a variation of a Negroni sbagliato but with apple to balance the bitterness a bit. Really refreshing and very quaffable.
The pies were served with mash, peas and some gravy. Just as the previous ones I had tried, the crust was crispy and the filling (mine was chicken and mushroom) perfectly cooked, moist but not too liquid so the pastry stayed crispy. If there had been a bit more gravy, I’d have finished all of the mash, too.
Dessert was three giant, tennis ball sized Profiteroles from Don Pasquale. Profiteroles aren’t usually my thing but these were great, good choux pastry and the cream wasn’t too cloying. Even the chocolate sauce was alright, despite not being dark. A huge portion, though, but I persevered while others at our table had to give up.
A great night, with great food and lovely people.
It was not long ago that Cambridge was a barren wasteland for foodies. Very few pubs and restaurants served decent food and there was hardly anything going on outside of commercial enterprises. Now there’s quite a good selection of pubs and small restaurants serving excellent food and the home based foodie scene is growing, too. The supper clubs Plate Lickers and The Clandestine Gourmet sell out within hours of being announced and now there’s a new one in town: The First Rule. I first heard about them when they started following me on twitter. I was intrigued and their offer of a menu including wines for £35 sounded very reasonable indeed so I signed up.
Yesterday evening, I made my way to the wilds of Trumpington again (they are if you rely on public transport, with the Citi 7 only going every half hour, even before 7 so it took me over an hour from Chesterton), found their house quickly and was greeted by the hosts Adam and Pascale as well as a few friends and familiar faces.
Charles Hardcastle from Joseph Barnes Wines who had provided the matching wines for our meal. The first one you see in the photo above was Domaine Breton, Touraine Petillant Naturel Rosé ‘Ritournelle’ 2011 (Loire), a natural wine that was more like cider than wine but light and refreshing, working well as aperitif and with the hors d’oeuvres.
The starter was a velouté of parsnips with apple and horseradish chantilly. The parsnip was well balanced with the sharp apple pieces and the horseradish. The Domaine Albert Mann, Riesling Tradition 2011 (Alsace) went well with it.
I had such a great time chatting to the other guests and eating that I actually forgot to take a photo of the main course of roast lamb with garlic flageolet beans and roasting juices. The lamb was a touch on the dry side but still tasty but it was the beans that made this dish for me. Cooked just right and very well flavoured. They didn’t even give me wind!
Another remarkable wine was the Clos Fantine, Faugeres Tradition 2010 (Languedoc) with the lamb, full bodied and right up my street. As I thought it would work well with a lot of my cooking, I had to order a few bottles.
The evening finished with really good coffee I could actually drink without ill effects (I’ve been having stomach problems drinking non-espresso coffee for a number of years) and home made petit fours. Again, I missed a photo of the white chocolate bits but you can see half of a tuile on my saucer.
A nice touch was that our hosts not only joined us at the table during dinner but they also had invited two friends and their guitars for some musical accompaniment (and helping during service). After dinner, Adam joined them and a great time was had by all.
Again, I had a great time meeting and eating with lovely people I hadn’t met before which was a great way of spending a Friday evening after a tedious week at work.
Their next supper club is on the 17th of May and you can sign up on their website.
This was the last leftover Eat Cambridge fringe event. The Clandestine Gourmet (or on facebook) had scheduled one for the 15th but had such a large number of people interested that they set up a second one with the same menu. I only managed to get in because I was on the waiting list and someone cancelled just before the weekend.
The evening turned out to be spectacular, not only in terms of the food served but also from a social point of view. As I didn’t trust the bus service to be on time during the snow, I took an earlier one and arrived a bit too early but that meant I could pick a spot at the big round table which turned out to be an excellent choice as I shared it with a baker, a painter, a patissiere, a doctor of physics and a writer. As diverse as our backgrounds were the topics of conversation. It was really good fun and also interesting. We could easily have carried on for another few hours but we sadly had to part company just before midnight. I rarely immediately click with a whole table but this evening was something special. Contact details were exchanged at the end and I’m positive we’ll run into each other again soon.
Conversation only ceased when another course was served but not for long as the ooohs and aaahs made way to comments about the food we were eating.
Ah yes, the food. Photos and short descriptions of the courses follow. I’m not really happy with the quality of the photos (mixed light sources falsified the colours) but they will give you rough idea of what we had.
It started with a Blue Lagoon, a not too sweet cocktail, served with a bowl of mixed, freshly roasted nuts.
The “main course”: Red mullet, black beans, tarragon, confit tomatoes. The fish was moist and flaky, the beans earthy with some acidity from the tomato, the tarragon working really well. My only criticism, not enough tomato.
“Dessert” was hazelnut cake, toasted almond cream, raspberry sorbet. This looked huge but both the cake and the sorbet were really light. I even liked the cream despite not being really a fan of cream.
There were also fantastic truffles at the end but I didn’t get a photo as my lift home was about to leave.
The Clandestine Gourmet provides not just your usual supper club fare, this was superb, sophisticated and consistent cooking. They describe themselves as a “popup restaurant” and that description fits but with BYOB. Highly recommended.