It’s September, children back at school and another summer of promise has run its course; and hosting a monthly popup restaurant at home in Wolvercote has become routine, a year after I started up. I’m still loving it, though. I notice I’m upping the ante by choosing dishes which are challenges to me, but if you live inside your comfort zone, what’s the point of it all? This month I aimed to serve a culinary Ode to Autumn on (five) plates. And as is the drill now, I’m posting the recipes below and making it all sound gorgeous (unless you come along, you won’t know how much poetic licence I’m invoking….)
Last Saturday’s meal started with caramelised garlic and goat’s cheese tarts with salsa verde. I’m quite pleased with this marriage of a Yottam Ottolenghi tart with my favourite minty-capery sharp sauce.
On the night, I wasn’t completely happy as the pastry wasn’t perfect (nobody running a supperclub is likely to be slow on self-criticism). My claim that the only two short things about me are my eyesight and my pastry was proven false, but that’s solo cooking for you, no pastry chef to blame!
I was on safer ground with the Sicilian almond sorbet which followed. I’d been intending to try this out for some time, and what delight it proved to be: pallid, pure and crystalline, and tooth-achingly cold (no egg white or other ingredient to make it set, so by the time it’s firm, it’s basically ice). Have I sold it yet? The Sicilians apparently wake themselves up with curved alabaster scoops of it clamped in a brioche bun for breakfast, with milky cheeses and a glass of the same mixture served as liquid almond milk, alongside the espresso.
Pigeon breasts with blackberry sauce, lentils with creme fraiche and baked polenta followed (pictured above, in their dark, glossy glory). The prospect of cooking this for ten kept me awake in the night before I cooked it, because those breasts are tiny and so easily over-cooked. But it was fine on the night. Blackberries from the garden went into a sauce with chilli and balsamic, and lentils lent earthiness and stable depth.
After cheese, I made hot damson souffles with cold geranium cream and geranium shortbread (both flavoured with the leaves of a highly-scented geranium – I so love my flower flavours).The last of the shortbread got eaten while I was writing this. Green sugar-rimmed, crisp discs, set against the molten softness of the souffles.
It’s a year since I started Wolvercote Supper Club as a way of engaging and entertaining myself at a point in my life when I needed a new direction. I’ve posted the menu for next month’s popup home restaurant event – it’s Eastern European food and has all the elements of exotic other-worldliness that I seek, with flavours I have yet to try (I’ve just ordered my dried marigolds!). Book here and let me take you back to the USSR…