A husband and wife team. Yusuf is a professional chef, Clarissa is a designer, events organiser and very good cook. Regular supper clubs in Norfolk, Suffolk, Devon and London. For bookings and event information email unthanksupperclub@gmail.com

Monday, 17 September 2012

Sweet, Tart, Hot, Cold, Crunchy, Soft. AKA The perfect September pudding.

This month I am cooking bang on season, food gathered if not from my own garden, then from gardens or hedgerows very close to home. My 'suppliers' are not often usual. There is a man in the village I live in who I like to call 'Danger Shorts'. If you remember Danger Mouse the cartoon, it has a brilliant intro song that I hum as I see him cycle past our cottage to his honesty shop. He is is prolific gardener and grows lots of fruit and vegetables every year and sells them in a little home made shack on wheels in the heart of the village. He charges 50 pence for a huge bag of runner beans which is bloody brill! He also on a hot day, wears rather dangerous shorts whilst riding his bike and on more than one occasion I have seen slightly more than is polite. (Insert plum jokes here)....

I forage for fruit at this time of year, there are trees and bushes all over the area full of fruit. Lots of it sinks back into the earth or is eaten by birds, so I feel an urgency to stock up and hoard as much as the season will let me. (No I don't make jam I really can't be arsed! way too 1950's for my liking) We also have a lovely egg lady who lives very close and I by and eat eggs that have been laid that same day. I often moan about living so rurally, I miss popping out for a coffee and the rich diversity of London life, but, it is this time of year my grump with the solitude wanes and I thoroughly enjoy my surroundings.
Ingredients for a September pudding

The blackberries are kicking off! There are some rampant bushes not far from home and I have had an urgent picking frenzy every day since the berries became black, fat and juicy. I have been mainly eating them raw for breakfast, my small boy and I have made crumbles and tarts and I served some at our supper club on Friday in which I made what I like to feel is my perfect pudding. I say 'my'...because I like a few things from a pudding. I like hot and cold, sweet and tart, soft and crunchy. All on one plate.
Blackberries from Norfolk
I find it hard to devise a pudding that is just one thing. I like to push my spoon around the plate and pick from a little selection of things. Similar I suppose to my liking of the South East Asian balance of flavours; hot, sweet, salty and sour. I like this principal in puddings. If I make a crumble it has to be both sweet and tart, crunchy and a bit salty, with a massive splodge of cold cream, ice cream or hot custard...if I am super honest ice cream AND hot custard. This is the reason I rarely eat puddings! 

With all of this in mind, and beautiful local ingredients, blackberries, eggs, lavender, roses and elderberries I made what for me is the perfect pudding. It's not neat or cheffy, it is quite pretty though. All elements were at their most perfect and beautiful when picked. The roses in youthful bloom, petals firm and plump and perfect. The lavender neat and tight and hugely fragrant (approach with caution when using lavender in puddings a little goes a long way, my first ever batch of lavender meringues was like an elderly ladies toilet bag). The elderberries where weighing their branches heavy with shiny black berries and the eggs were laid that morning and tart small apples from my tiny orchard of three apples trees.
Caramel apples with lavender meringue, whipped cream, elderberry syrup, blackberries and crystallised rose petals.
Sweet, tart, hot, cold, crunchy and soft.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Papaya Vert

On Saturday I had the immense pleasure of eating at another Supper Club in Norwich. In the three years we have been dabbling with our club we have met plenty of people who have threatened to start one and never have. Until now. It can be pretty lonely at times running  supper club. Hearing a good mate was setting one up has given me a lot to be excited about. Officially there are now two supper clubs in Norwich. Exciting news folks!
The lovely Papaya Vert and me
Jaki Clibbon is a beautiful Aussie chic from Melbourne.  Jaki is also an adoptee from Vietnam, so holds in her veins and DNA some culinary magic from that beautiful part of Asia. Jaki cooked some very authentic dishes from Vietnam including Banh Xeo, Goi Cuon, Pho and some rather addictive Imperial rolls...I ate way too many of those and could hardly move on the way home in the cab.
Jaki and her impressive line up of dipping sauces and Goi Cuon
Every dish was fantastic and more than scratched my unending itch for Vietnamese food up here in Norfolk. It was such a pleasure to eat at her table, not only for the great food but also the great service Jaki's husband and sister in law Johny and Lucy provided. It was heart warming to see the family supporting Papaya Vert, with some beautiful style. 
Lucy is the famous Norfolk artist Lucy Loveheart. The guests were lucky enough to be waited on by Lucy and have hand made personal place names..I admit I stole mine. It is so stunning. We were all made to feel very special indeed. One of the most important things about the night was that we were also there to raise money for the Allambie Orphanage. To find out more about more about Jaki and her culinary fundraising please find her here.
Supper Clubs are a great thing, far less formality than eating in a restaurant and great food if you choose your club well. It was a brilliant experience to be on the other side. I am pretty sure I drank far too much and no doubt stayed too long. I came away feeling we had had a very special and rare evening. Which is a very good sign.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

September, the month of abundance and loss.

September always brings with it my favourite flower, the dahlia. Dahlias have always brought sunshine and exotic abundance of outrageous colour at this time of year. I go crazy each year filling the house with these as often as I can, they will decorate every surface and they make me so very happy. They are like a beautiful natural alarm touting '' this is it!!!! this is the end of summer!!!! Look at me I am the finest!!!!.....''

Dahlias also make me sad.
They will forever remind me of a dear late friend and fellow foodie Richard Ludbrook. Richard was a beautiful man. A real life rock and roll star who I met in 2006 just before my son was born. I had moved to Norfolk from London and only knew a few people. Richard and his beautiful wife Joey were Aussies from Melbourne living here in deepest rural Norfolk. They brought worldly wise happiness into my life during a difficult time. Richard and Joey both have incredible taste, not just in food, but travel, fabrics and music. They both loved to cook for each other, and showed much love through food, shopping for it, reading about it talking about. Great stories of Vietnam, of Singapore, Bali, India..Richard had travelled a lot in the 60's and 70's ...he had incredible stories of women, opiuim dens, musicians and food. He was one of the founders of Circus Oz and had an immense spirit of adventure.

Richard and Joey became very close friends, my best friends. It may have been his Beef rendang that sealed it. He was an impressive cook. He always chose the recipes I would never attempt. He was a wheelwright, an incredible carpenter by trade. His meticulous approach was beautiful and thorough and creative. Richard's cooking was just the same. I spent many happy Christmases with them, all foreigners to this land in some way. All enjoying each others excitement at beautiful and simple pleasures. They became my sons God parents or 'G Parents' as I like to call them. (I am not religious). Zebedee and I felt their love through food and laughter for five years.

He was very good at filthy jokes

Two years ago on the 24th of September Richard died. I loved him dearly, just like a Father in truth. I still love him. The space he has left behind is still so huge, and in many ways just increases, he was a rock and brought much stability and calmness and love of great food. I can't make a Vietnamese dish without thinking of him. Every time I open my spice cupboard I smell the tightly packed and heady stink of belachan emanating towards me I think of him. Hilariously he bought it for Yusuf as a Christmas present. It was the perfect gift, we totally got it. It makes the house smell of rotting flesh, but it tastes amazing, we get it.

Richard was also an amazing dancer

When Richard died, I decorated his wake with hundreds of dahlias. After the wake was over..he was a very popular man, hundreds of friends from all over the world came to mourn and celebrate his life...Yusuf and I did not know what to do with so many flowers. I took them in my car and decorated the grave with them, dotted around like bursting polka dots. It was his favourite flower too.

With each season there is something new to adjust to, a sign of change just like when you notice your child has grown up a little, there is excitement, tinged with sadness of what has also been lost and will never return. My house is full of dahlias as I type, I will keep buying them from the lady down the road until they are no more. And I will take some to my friends grave, maybe with some summer rolls as a picnic.