Monday, 28 February 2011

Little Acorns

I was perfect...

So we came, we cooked and we conquered. And whilst it would be cocksure to start doling out tips on how to run a supper club at this stage, after the inauguration of the very first Food Urchin Supper Club last Friday night at the Brentwood Theatre, I think I can safely give just two little tidbits of advice. The first would be that working a 22 hour shift prior to the event isn't really conducive when it comes to productivity. Or personal sanity for that matter. By my reckoning I got about 6 hours sleep over a 48 hour period and at one point in the afternoon, when I was loading the car up with pots of soup, prepared vegetables, homemade bread etc etc, I definitely had a Black Swan moment. A mirror hangs in our hallway and I swear that on more than one occasion my doppelganger was pulling faces and flicking v's as I rushed past. I tried to catch the slaphead out but he was far too cute for his own good. Sleep deprivation eh? What a killer. And I could have killed Bugs Bunny when I was chopping the carrots, I am sure that pesky wabbit kept swiping them.

Secondly, never ever put boiled potatoes in a food processor unless you plan on doing some decorating and need to hang wall paper. In the run up to the supper club when I was trying out different recipes, I become hooked on Simon Hopkinson's Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes although it's quite rich so I tinkered about with the recipe until I was happy. However, the constant and great thing about Hopkinson's recipe was his suggestion to use a food processor with the paddle attachment as this always produced a beautiful, silky smooth pomme puree. When you use a couple of spuds at a time, enough to feed say 2 people. But when you up the multiples to cater for 24 people, suddenly your food processor's capabilities get stretched somewhat. Frustrated at the time it was taking, I thought 'sod this, let's try it with the blade'. And hey presto, I got instant glue. So let this be a warning to you, whip potatoes in a frenzy and those starches will create an adhesive so strong you will be able to paste a boiler suit to a big yellow board, get into it and flip the board over the precipice of a twenty story tall building. And survive. So yes I had to do some more bloody potatoes.

But by and large the whole caboodle went off really well. Although we didn't have a kitchen as such, it is pretty amazing what you can pull together with some planning and preparation (albeit slightly delrious towards the end). Mise en place was definitely the key there. As for our guests, a healthy blend of family, friends and complete strangers, they looked and sounded like they enjoyed themselves. I know that the notion of walking in through a theatre, going backstage, past dressing rooms and up to an acting studio that's been transformed into a restaurant was certainly different for everyone. And I don't think that they were expecting the cook to come out and deliver a rant about inanimate kitchen objects either but given the surroundings I thought that a little light entertainment was in order. The best and most pleasing sign was that all the plates came back clean. OK, bar the odd lump of gristle from an ox cheek here and there but come on, I was talking to Oliver Reed when I was trimming those up earlier in the day (so funny...). There's bound to be more thrills and spills along the way but for the first time out, it wasn't all that bad. Little acorns as they say. The next one will be at Food Urchin Mansions on March 19th with only 16 places going so please get in soon if you're interested (email: we'll be releasing the menu shortly.

In the meantime I'd like to thank Mark and David at the Brentwood Theatre for accomodating us and Mrs FU, Craigwah, Caron and Papa Urchin (even if you did steal my thunder again with your puds) for everything else.

Makeshift kitchen

Props from the house and IKEA

Tables set

'Veronica' takes centre stage

Lights, action....

Papa Urchin's puds (Tunsian Orange Cake and Chocolate and Apricot Tart)

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